Thursday, March 26, 2015

Consider all the variables when deciding on storage

By Anamika Budree, Sales Manager, Branded Products at WD South Africa

For those in the market for storage for their home or Small and Medium Business (SMB), the discussion of the moment is deciding between local or cloud based storage. On both sides of the fence there are a wealth of options from several different brands but it's critical that decision makers get down to the core of how these solutions operate, their demands on other infrastructure, and how it will affect you or your staff as the end users.

As there is increasing adoption of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices within Europe, let’s consider this option in terms of local storage. Here, you have the flexibility of choosing how much capacity you want, how much performance and redundancy you need, and you can also have remote data access via a personal cloud feature that is offered by NAS devices such as the WD My Cloud EX4.

With a NAS it's easy to quickly transfer large amounts of data to the device via the local network, and when people are on the move; this data can be accessed via a desktop or mobile app thanks to the personal cloud feature. Generally speaking personal cloud services offered by NAS devices are free of cost and are platform independent, so you can access your data from your Windows or Mac laptop, iOS, Android or Windows Phone handhelds. As your NAS resides within your home or office, you have the added benefit of never losing control of your data.

Given that most NAS devices are power efficient and drives such as the SOHO NAS optimised WD Red are built for 24/7 efficient operation, you're not in for a shock in terms of monthly power consumption. And because your data is stored locally on the NAS, you won't be placing massive upload/download demands on your internet connection, which is also being relied on for web and e-mail service.

In terms of cost, if you purchase a My Cloud EX4 and four 3TB WD Red hard drives, you're looking at a one-time and upfront cost. Running this system in RAID 10 which means you get data striping (increased performance) and mirroring (data redundancy), you will have access to 6TB of usable capacity. You also have the flexibility to upgrade your device's storage capacity by simply purchasing larger capacity drives when needed or by adding a USB drive to the NAS device as a quick fix.

On the cloud side of things, the idea is you buy a specific amount of storage from the cloud storage provider and then upload your content to this central repository. Once this is done you can then access your data from different locations and devices. You can also expand how much storage you have but there may be restrictions imposed by the provider, so it's a good idea to look at their terms and conditions when you first sign up for the plan and, if possible, opt for a monthly versus annual payment plan, so you have more flexibility.

In terms of how cloud storage affects your existing infrastructure, consider this; since the storage point is remote, you have to upload all your data to the cloud from the get go. While it is a simple case of drag and drop, it can be a time consuming task depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Most home and business connections offer upload speeds that are a fraction of the download speed, and even if you consider a connection with a higher than average 10Mbit/sec upload speed, a 100MB file will take upwards of 40 seconds to transfer - the larger the file, the longer it will take to upload.

You also need to consider that making changes to data is essentially a re-download/re-upload job, and although this will likely be invisible to you, as the user, it will again be consuming bandwidth on your internet connection, which could slow down browsing and e-mail services. To be able to use cloud storage to the fullest, you need to invest in a high speed Internet connection and, depending on the volume of data that you work with, you may also be looking at opting for a service with no restrictions on how much data can be uploaded or downloaded. As continuously uploading and downloading data can bog down even the fastest internet connection, you may want to consider putting policies in place where large files are uploaded over night or after business hours.

Considering the aforementioned requirements and depending on which service provider you're with, maintaining a high speed connection and the cloud storage could be a very expensive proposition, even in the short term. It's for this reason that you should always consider all the variables and pay attention to the total cost of ownership before deciding on what's right for your home or SMB.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Energy solutions from newcomer carbonTRACK

With our overburdened electricity grid and an energy crisis looming, a promising solution has been launched to the South African business and domestic market. Proudly South African company, carbonTRACK, offers a new intelligent energy management system that is enabling companies and households to adjust and regulate energy use on various appliances, improving efficiency, and reducing costs and carbon footprints.

Irvan Damon, MD of carbonTRACK, says energy consumption represents a large proportion of our carbon footprint, while also continually increasing costs with ongoing price hikes. “carbonTRACK offsets this with a system that includes an energy monitoring, control and savings device which is installed in a consumer’s home or business and connected to the distribution board. It monitors and controls heavy energy loads such as pool pumps, hot water geysers or air conditioning, or the entire incoming load of the house, all from the convenience of your phone, tablet or laptop.  – .”

He adds that invariably consumers pay for energy use when they shouldn’t be. “Most energy is used for heating and cooling and to heat water. carbonTRACK monitors and controls energy use, enabling a saving of up to 30%. For instance, electricity intense hot water geysers are generally only required for a few hours in the morning, and almost never during the night, yet they continually reheat water that isn’t needed. By ensuring water is at temperature during times of use only, carbonTRACK can reduce electricity consumption substantially. The web user-interface allows you to set geyser temperatures and timer settings. Added to this, switching hot water geysers off during peak load events would have a marked effect on grid consumption, possibly limiting or even preventing load shedding blackouts.”

As of this year July, the City of Johannesburg will introduce residential time-of-use tariffs. Stand-by loads like modems, set-top boxes, washing machines and microwaves contribute up to 6% of our national grid-usage. “With carbonTRACK® you will conveniently be able to set your energy loads to draw power during off-peak times, from 10:00 to 18:00. With the launch of carbonTRACK®’s ZigBee wireless plug, stand-by devices can now be switched off at the appliance level via your phone, further reducing your energy spend. In addition, by switching off your appliances at the plug power level, you can avoid the damages appliances experience when connected back to the grid due to load-shedding and voltage spikes. Using your phone to interface with your ZigBee is a first for South Africa,” says Damon.

carbonTRACK technology can ‘see’ electricity use in a home or business, and uses clever hardware and software algorithms to switch devices as required to minimise their electricity consumption. A proprietary communications stack allows remote switching of devices in under three seconds, using robust telecommunications networks at an extremely small cost. The results are residential electricity savings of up to 30% or more; the ability for third parties – such as Eskom – to switch major loads during peak load events; and a total installed cost of around  R4 900 per building.

carbonTRACK can also offer improved efficiency solutions for solar power usage and carbonTRACK can work with householders to help them get the most out of alternative power generation such as solar geysers and photovoltaic solar.

“Solar is a great start to electricity independence, but it is just the start,” explains Damon. “There is so much more that households and businesses can get out of their solar power if they use it well. carbonTRACK is designed to make standard solar smart. carbonTRACK users can see and understand when they are generating the most solar power and how to reduce the grid power they use. Ultimately, carbonTRACK provides the ability to make smarter, informed decisions on how to manage energy needs to reduce electricity bills and dependence on Eskom.”

He adds that carbonTRACK can show how much energy an alternative power source produces, uses and stores, and if the system’s performance drops, carbonTRACK will send an alert. carbonTRACK also optimises the operation of up to two geysers by constantly recalculating and measuring the solar thermal conversion, maximising geyser efficiency and ensuring that water is heated with the least amount of energy. carbonTRACK’s leak detection capabilities detect and control a leak when it occurs, reducing resultant damage from faulty or leaky geysers.

The carbonTRACK device and its management software were co-developed by the company’s Australian partner, which has more than 12 years’ experience in telemetry and software engineering, but manufacturing is 100% South African. carbonTRACK is a Proudly South African company, creating local jobs and economic empowerment for South Africans.

Says Proudly South African’s CEO, Adv. Leslie Sedibe, “carbonTRACK, a registered Proudly South African member company, provides a significant and necessary product to consumers during a time when electricity supply is closely monitored and consumers are urged to cut down on their usage. We are proud to have carbonTRACK on board with a product that empowers South Africans to easily monitor and manage their power usage during challenging times. This innovative solution can also be used to monitor solar generation and ultimately gives consumers the power to save money. This comes at a time when our government is urging all South Africans to work together to save electricity and help get the country out of its energy shortage challenge. President Jacob Zuma recently reiterated that while government will play its part, every single consumer can also contribute towards energy saving.”

The carbonTRACK products are now more accessible to consumers than ever before, thanks to the conclusion of an exclusive agreement with Builders  for the distribution of carbonTRACK systems through its network of outlets. The launch is pegged for the first half of this year.

In a recent development, the Kutana Group has joined carbonTRACK as their black empowerment investors, and according to Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe, shareholder and CEO of Kutana Group, “Kutana is proud to partner with carbonTRACK, a cutting edge technology company focused on energy management. carbonTRACK has made a significant investment in South Africa, contributing to local manufacturing, creating local jobs and supporting local communities.

“Kutana Investments is geared towards delivering significant shareholder value through sound strategic investments, while contributing to and empowering the local economy. Our investment in carbonTRACK extends our portfolio to innovative energy management solutions which are not only locally manufactured and Proudly South African, but which will respond to South Africa's urgent need to conserve energy,” says Mokgosi-Mwantembe.

Last year, carbonTRACK’s device won the prestigious GAP ICT 2014 Innovation Hub Award for its remarkable potential for households and the greater electricity grid, to improve their energy efficiency, according to Lufuno Ramabulana, a specialist at the Innovation Hub’s Innovation Strategy Projects and manager of GAP ICT.

For further information on carbonTRACK go to or follow on @carbontracksa.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Charger Station

Have you seen this thing?

It was at the VIP section of the Joburg Golf tournament this weekend. Each green area has a variety of cables for you to charge your cellphone The red one has a phone charging in it and it is locked. The whole system is controlled via a touch screen in the middle. 

It looks like such a simple but clever idea. I see advertising opportunities and also a great service if you are holding a long function.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Enhance your world, get the new maps

TomTom today announces map updates around the globe, increasing coverage and improving features for all business customers.  TomTom’s global map database now covers over 44 million kilometres and 4.2 billion people worldwide, and features full navigable coverage for 126 countries.

“TomTom’s global map footprint has expanded with the addition of more than half a million kilometres of road,” said Etienne Louw, General Manager of TomTom Africa. “These updates will support navigation, geocoding and other location-based services.”

Global map enhancements include:
·         The launch of navigable, turn-by-turn maps for Albania and Senegal.

·         Debut of Pedestrian Maps for Berlin, London, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto featuring pedestrian-specific geometry, such as footpaths, garden paths and forms of way that are not accessible by car.

·         Introduction of Address Points to enable better geocoding and navigation in Andorra, Denmark, Hong Kong, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Switzerland.

·         The Addition of 10 million Address Points across Europe, bringing total regional coverage to 58 million.

·         Extension of Voice Maps to 30 million names and over 40 million phonetic transcriptions, resulting in an improved spoken navigation experience.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

carbonTRACK wins GAP ICT competition with energy saving device

carbonTRACK’s energy monitoring, control and saving device has won the prestigious Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) ICT 2014 Innovation Hub Award for its remarkable potential for households and the greater electricity grid to improve energy efficiency, according to Lufuno Ramabulana, a specialist at the Innovation Hub’s Innovation Strategy Projects and manager of GAP ICT.

Held in celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014 and the implementation of Gauteng’s Innovation Strategy to promote innovation, grow intellectual property and support the development of small enterprises within the biosciences, ICT, green economy and medical sectors, the GAP Innovation Competitions honour top innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs for exemplary work in the green and health technology sectors; the biosciences; and the information and communication technology (ICT) sectors.

The recipient of the ICT category award, carbonTRACK is a ‘proudly South African’ company manufacturing an intelligent SABS-approved energy device that enables consumers to reduce their power costs. Explains Irvan Damon, MD of carbonTRACK, “Energy consumption represents a large proportion of our carbon footprint and is characterised by continually increasing costs with ongoing price hikes. The carbonTRACK smart energy management device is installed in a consumer’s home or business and connected to the distribution board. It monitors and controls heavy energy loads such as the pool, geyser, or air conditioning, or the entire house, and can manage the energy consumption in that home, advising householders how to reduce their carbon footprint – by email, app push notifications, or the user interface.”

The ICT category of the GAP Innovation Hub competition aims to find innovations in the ICT sector that have strong business potential and prospects for broad social impact. More than a competition, it is designed as a development programme where shortlisted entrants attend workshops, are trained in developing appropriate business models for their products, are given design and development support, along with the opportunity to enter the global Smart Living Challenge.

“This year the GAP ICT competition attracted about 90 entries, of which we shortlisted 15 products,” says Ramabulana. “Once the 15 had been through the different development aspects of the competition, an external panel of judges representing national and international industry experts, entrepreneurs, investors and government selected the top four winners, which were announced at a gala banquet at the end of November.”

Ramabulana says carbonTRACK was a clear winner. “There was something special about the carbonTRACK team. They have a real passion for what they are doing. Anyone can use technology, but they have a strong entrepreneurial drive. They also showed great participation throughout the programme and were keen to learn and gain insight from others in the programme.” He says the carbonTRACK technology has tremendous potential to have an impact on energy consumption in the country.

Damon adds that the carbonTRACK device allows consumers to take advantage of direct savings by better monitoring their household energy usage. “This control marks the start of the ‘connected home’ and it opens up a wealth of connectivity-enabled possibilities.” A real marketing strength of carbonTRACK is the ability to tailor the alert messages – which are custom alerts and advisory content sent to a smart phone, tablet or desktop. carbonTRACK learns habits and can adjust appliance use, or send an alert, such as when a geyser is about to flood or fail. Householders or business owners can then adjust usage remotely using the user interface.

The benefits of the CarbonTRACK system to the insurance industry are also significant. Damon notes that 82% of hot water in South Africa is heated by standard electric geysers – and the insurance industry is responsible for the procurement and installation of more than 75% of replacements, which makes up almost 50% of all standard geysers sold in SA. About 70% of claims on household policy claims are geyser related, which means approximately 250 000 geyser incidents annually. The CarbonTRACK system can alert householders to possible geyser bursts and help to prevent the incidents from occurring, saving insurers in geyser replacement and resultant damage costs.

This year’s GAP Awards introduced a new level of innovation into the competition. The winners walked away with a total of R 2.8 million (cash and seed fund) and will be incubated and provided with other value added services to assist in the commercialisation of the technologies at The Innovation Hub for a year. carbonTRACK’s prizes for achieving top position in the GAP ICT competition include incubation services from the Innovation Hub’s Maxum Business Incubator and mLab, valued at R150 000, plus R200 000 seed funding and R60 000 cash. Says Damon, “This win is very exciting for the company; it means that we can further our technology advances like wireless Zigbee switching, contribute to local manufacturing and IP, improve our app offering, and market our products to our various channels.”

The prizes and support for the programmes were made possible by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), Pfizer, MSD, Emory University, Smart Living Challenges and TIH.

For further information on carbonTRACK go to

Thursday, August 28, 2014

IBM Watson Ushers in a New Era of Data-Driven Discoveries

Available now as a cloud service, IBM's Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to scale and accelerate discoveries by research teams. It reduces the time needed to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions that can advance their work -- from months to days and days to just hours -- bringing new levels of speed and precision to research and development.
Building on Watson's ability to understand nuances in natural language, Watson Discovery Advisor can understand the language of science, such as how chemical compounds interact, making it a uniquely powerful tool for researchers in life sciences and other industries.  
Researchers and scientists from leading academic, pharmaceutical and other commercial research centers have begun deploying IBM's new Watson Discovery Advisor to rapidly analyze and test hypotheses using data in millions of scientific papers available in public databases. A new scientific research paper is published nearly every 30 seconds, which equals more than a million annually (Source: CiteSeerx). According to the National Institutes of Health, a typical researcher reads about 23 scientific papers per month, which translates to nearly 300 per year, making it humanly impossible to keep up with the ever-growing body of scientific material available.
In 2013, the top 1,000 research and development companies spent more than $600 billion annually on research alone (Source: Strategy&). Progress can be slow, taking an average of 10 to 15 years for a promising pharmaceutical treatment to progress from the initial research stage into practice (Source: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America). Using Watson Discovery Advisor, researchers can uncover new relationships and recognize unexpected patterns among data that have the potential to significantly improve and accelerate the discovery process in research and science.
“We're entering an extraordinary age of data-driven discovery," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group. "Today's announcement is a natural extension of Watson's cognitive computing capability. We're empowering researchers with a powerful tool which will help increase the impact of investments organizations make in R&D, leading to significant breakthroughs."
Leading life sciences organizations are deploying Watson Discovery Advisor to advance discoveries in ongoing research projects, including Baylor College of Medicine, Johnson & Johnson and The New York Genome Center.
  • In a retrospective, peer reviewed study released this week by Baylor College of Medicineand IBM, scientists demonstrated a possible new path for generating scientific questions that may be helpful in the long term development of new, effective treatments for disease. In a matter of weeks, biologists and data scientists using the Baylor Knowledge Integration Toolkit (KnIT), based on Watson technology, accurately identified proteins that modify p53, an important protein related to many cancers, which can eventually lead to better efficacy of drugs and other treatments. A feat that would have taken researchers years to accomplish without Watson's cognitive capabilities, Watson analyzed 70,000 scientific articles on p53 to predict proteins that turn on or off p53's activity. This automated analysis led the Baylor cancer researchers to identify six potential proteins to target for new research. These results are notable, considering that over the last 30 years, scientists averaged one similar target protein discovery per year. 
“On average, a scientist might read between one and five research papers on a good day,” said Dr. Olivier Lichtarge, the principal investigator and professor of molecular and human genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine. “To put this in perspective with p53, there are over 70,000 papers published on this protein. Even if I’m reading five papers a day, it could take me nearly 38 years to completely understand all of the research already available today on this protein. Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries. "
  • Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers that detail clinical trial outcomes used to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments. This collaboration hopes to accelerate comparative effectiveness studies of drugs, which help doctors match a drug with the right set of patients to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects. Typically, comparative effectiveness studies are done manually, requiring three people to spend an average of 10 months (2.5 man-years) just to collect the data and prepare them for use before they are able to start analyzing, generating and validating a hypothesis. In this research study, the team hopes to teach Watson to quickly synthesize the information directly from the medical literature, allowing researchers to start asking questions about the data immediately to determine the effectiveness of a treatment compared to other medications, as well as its side effects. 
  • IBM Watson will be supporting the analysis in New York Genome Center’s clinical study to advance genomic medicine. The clinical study will initially focus on clinical application of genomics to help oncologists deliver DNA-based treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that kills more than 13,000 Americans each year. Despite tremendous discoveries into the genetic drivers of diseases like cancer over the past decade, big data makes it difficult to translate DNA data into life-saving treatments. Based on results from the clinical study, IBM Watson could soon help scale up the availability of personalized treatment options.
Industry Implications 
Discovering something new is applicable to many domains such as medicine, law, finance, etc., that all require deep insight into a large body of information and protocols. Cognitive computing will allow human experts to interact with large bodies of data and research and the knowledge and insight of many other experts in their field. For example, Watson could be used to:
  • Accelerate a medical researcher's ability to develop life-saving treatments for diseases by synthesizing evidence and removing reliance on serendipity
  • Enhance a financial analyst's ability to provide proactive advice to clients
  • Improve a lawyer's merger and acquisition strategy with faster, more comprehensive due diligence and document analysis
  • Accelerate a government analyst's insight into security, intelligence, border protection and law enforcement and guidance, etc.
  • Create new food recipes. Chefs can use Watson to augment their creativity and expertise and help them discover recipes, learning about the language of cooking and food by reading recipes, statistical, molecular and food pairing theories, hedonic chemistry, as well as regional and cultural knowledge
IBM Watson Discovery Advisor has the potential to transform industries and professions that rely heavily on data, including law, pharmaceuticals, biotech, education, chemicals, metals, scientific research, engineering, and criminal investigations. For more information, visit
IBM Power Systems serves as the infrastructure base of Watson, supporting the high volume of data needed to drive cognitive insights.
For more information on IBM Watson, please visit:
To join the social discussion about Watson, include the hashtag #ibmwatson. Follow Watson onFacebook and see Watson on YouTube and Flickr.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inkjet versus laser – which is best and when is it best?

By Heinrich Pretorius, Canon and OKI Product Specialist at DCC

Printers are common in both the workplace and home. Although many businesses are working towards a paperless environment with the increase in ‘green’ awareness, printers are still an essential office tool. A common question asked when purchasing a printer for the home or office is whether to purchase and inkjet or laser printer. Each printer is unique to various environments and have their own pro’s and con’s, however, the needs of the user will ultimately decide on the printer of choice – inkjet or laser.

Purchasing a printer for the home or office is no simple task and various considerations need to be taking into account before this purchase is made. The key question to ask oneself is whether a laser or inkjet printer suits your needs, and which device will benefit you in the long run. User can generally distinguish the main differences between inkjet and laser, however, it can be difficult to establish which one is right for you.

In the past, the Cost Per Page (CPP) with an inkjet printer far outweighed the CPP of a laser. According to, the “CPP can be determined by calculating the cost of a printer cartridge divided by its yield”. However, with the emergence of new and improved inkjet technology, one can increasingly see inkjet printers competing with, and sometimes beating, laser printers on this issue. Understanding the differences and target markets for each printer will offer users more insight as to which printer would suit their environment best.

Laser printers make use of toner cartridges that contain ink powder. Through an electro photographic printing process, laser beams scan the surface of photo-sensitive drums to form a latent image. The toner is then affixed to non-charged areas of the drums, developing the latent image and finally transferring to the sheet of paper. Inkjet, on the other hand, works by making use of heat. Simply put, an ultra-fine nozzle is connected to a reservoir of ink, with a small heating element at the front of the nozzle. When the printer is switched on, a bubble forms inside the nozzle and a tiny drop of ink is expelled at a high speed. The heating element is switched on and off in response to the data from the computer, which processes the image from the file.

Laser printers are designed for large office environments or departments requiring high print volumes. Initial investments in laser printers may be higher than inkjet printers, however, the CPP was far less when compared to inkjet printers, especially if the print volumes are high. On the other hand, inkjet technology traditionally lent itself to the smaller office, home office and consumers. This is mainly due to its small form factor, saving these environments space. Furthermore, the initial investment of inkjet is far lower than that of the laser, however, the liquid ink used in these printers are more costly than toner and cater for low print volumes. Therefore, the laser printer offered organisations with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than that of the inkjet printer.

However, the emergence of new and improved inkjet printers, along with Multifunctional Printers (MFPs) are blurring these lines when choosing a printer. Due to new technology, inkjet printers are now providing a significantly lower CPP. This technology is further leading to the use of these printers within the larger office environment, and not solely for the home user and consumer. Furthermore, with the emergence of connectivity, inkjet printers are now also providing users with the ability to print from anywhere by making use of a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. This is further changing the game within the printing arena.

In conclusion, there are a number of printers available on the market. Choosing between an inkjet or laser printer will depend on your needs. Inkjet printers are still ideal for the small office, home office or consumer market due to the small form factor and the ability to cater for low print volumes. Laser, on the other hand, still lends itself to larger organisations where large print volumes are required. However, with the latest technology in inkjet, these printers are entering the large print volume market, lowering the CPP and aligning with the CPP of lasers. It is essential to understand your printing requirements and budget before purchasing a printer for your organisation. Understanding these devices and what they offer will ensure the correct printer is selected for your daily printing needs.