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Innovation

  • Is your bank really about to experience Uber-style disruption?

    To the average person on the street, Uber is amazing and has done more to change the face of transportation than any vehicle manufacturer has done in decades. But to big established players in a variety of industries Uber, or at least the kind of disruption it represents, is terrifying. Thing is, if ex-Barclay's CEO Antony Jenkins is right, then people in the banking sector aren't nearly scared enough. Speaking in London last week, Jenkins warned banks that they "risk becoming merely capital-providing utilities that operate in a highly regulated, less profitable environment, a situation unlikely to be tolerated...

  • 10 Reasons why 2001: A Space Odyssey stands as the best Sci-Fi movie ever made

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, MGM) was filmed before man stepped on the moon (1969, Neil Armstrong), before the use of Computer-Generated Imagery (1973, Westworld), and before most Star Wars fans were even born (1977, Episode IV). Despite intervening decades of scientific discovery, film-making advancements, and computer technology, it remains the best science fiction movie in terms of realism, prediction of future technology, mystery, and thought provocation. A good movie extends reality for the purpose of entertainment, but a great movie also suspends the viewer’s disbelief in order to be convincing. If something is depicted on film that makes...

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, others join to fast track clean energy innovation

    Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft's Bill Gates -- alongside a group of 26 other powerful business leaders -- have launched an initiative which seeks to fast track innovation around clean energy. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is made up of wealthy investors and tech influencers, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group's Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and many more. It also includes South Africa's Patrice Motsepe from African Rainbow Minerals and Nigeria's Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group. "Solving the clean energy problem is an essential part of building a better world," Zuckerberg writes in an announcement. Read more: Following criticism,...

  • Innovating Africa means practical solutions to unique challenges

    Innovation is one of the most important contributors to economic growth in any market. Innovators create wealth, attract investment and provide job opportunities. They also create new supply chains and boost exports. This is a universal reality. However, the reasons why individuals become innovators (and the subsequent output), depends upon the context. A desire to become rich by becoming the next Apple might motivate the majority, but here in sub-Saharan Africa, there are often other, more nuanced reasons for inventing new products and services.

  • Beyond Einstein’s brain: the anatomy of genius

    When Albert Einstein died in 1955, his brain was removed, weighed and measured, preserved in formalin, photographed, and sectioned for microscopic study. Although we often think of technologic breakthroughs as coming from corporations or industry sectors, ideas come from individual brains. Human brain tissue is the source of the invention, conceptualization, and implementation of new technologies. Einstein was the preeminent genius of his era and one of the greatest scientists of all time, on par with Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton (whose brains were not preserved). What can we learn from the anatomy of Einstein’s brain that might...

  • Singularity University: reflections on 10 weeks of innovation

    Michael Fichardt recently spent 10 weeks at Singularity University. Located in Silicon Valley, the institution is part university, part think-tank, and part business-incubator, which aims is to "educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges." In a series of five articles, Fichardt details his experiences at Singularity University, ranging from the ideas and technologies he saw to the lessons he learned there. In this, the fifth article in the series, he reflects on what he learned during the 10 week long programme. From the beginning of time, when man first tamed fire and...

  • Singularity University and the philosophy of the moonshot

    Michael Fichardt recently spent 10 weeks at Singularity University. Located in Silicon Valley, the institution is part university, part think-tank, and part business-incubator, which aims is to "educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges." In a series of five articles, Fichardt details his experiences at Singularity University, ranging from the ideas and technologies he saw to the lessons he learned there. In this, the fourth article in the series, he outlines the "moonshot" mentality that's changing the future of technology and humanity as a whole. On 12 September 1962, in a famous...

  • It’s time for bold digital innovation in South Africa

    The digital marketing world is moving forward at a rapid pace and South Africa risks falling behind if we don’t focus more on user-centered innovation. For me, this was one of the key insights to emerge from Google’s All Star Summit in San Francisco, attended by 500-plus representatives from Google business partners from more than 50 countries. During the presentations and workshops, we heard a great deal from Google about what it is doing in an effort to amaze its users. The bar is high these days, and it’s getting harder to impress people with new digital offerings. But...

  • #Wired2015: Hollywood makes technologies happen

    Wired 2015 kicked off in usual style with some considerable heartstring pulling and "what's your excuse?" style nudges from speakers like Arunima Sinha, the first female amputee to scale Everest, and Avi Yaron -- who created the a 3D medical camera because no-one else had what was needed to look at the tumour in his brain. Attendees were given glimpses into the real lives of slum-dwellers, the real Brazil under a demi-president drug lord, and a thought-providing look at what it really takes to get Guerrillas to change their minds deep in the jungles of Columbia. If you want to...

  • Singularity University and exponential technologies: notes from an alumnus

    Michael Fichardt recently spent 10 weeks at Singularity University. Located in Silicon Valley, the institution is part university, part think-tank, and part business-incubator, which aims is to "educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges." In a series of five articles, Fichardt details his experiences at Singularity University, ranging from the ideas and technologies he saw to the lessons he learned there. In this, the first article in the series, he outlines what the Singularity University programme entails and what the students are challenged to do. Founded in 2009, Singularity University is the...

  • Could all grade 12 township schools going paperless create a generation of digital natives?

    In January 2015, the Gauteng Department of Education launched the "Big Switch On" Paperless Classrooms Programme which introduced e-learning to seven Gauteng township schools. These "schools of the future" were equipped with tablets, Wi-Fi connectivity, e-learning content, digital training and technical support in order to help students achieve digital literacy before entering the workforce. "The majority of our learners come from poor households and many of them are from child-headed households”, Slovo school principal Maggie Makgopa said in a press release issued by the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department. "This (Paperless Classroom) will go a long way in assisting them...

  • 3 real-world use cases for the Internet of Things and big data

    Technology often progresses in ways that can surprise us. Just eight years ago, many people thought of the then-new Apple iPhone as an expensive toy of little interest to the workaday world or the average consumer. The idea that nearly everyone would own such a gadget sounded like crazy talk to some. Today, the average Joe, Jane and their grandparents has a smartphone, and nearly everyone in the workforce depends on a mobile device to be productive. The Internet of Things is on the verge of a similar explosion into the mainstream, and it promises to transform business processes...

  • Workshops on wheels: how tech is enabling the rise of the mobile artisan

    In his TED Talk “The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed”, entrepreneur and VC, Bill Gross argues that ‘timing’ is the answer. Market readiness, he says, is fundamentally the difference between success and failure in the start-up world. In recent years independent artisans, professionals ranging from pool maintenance to plumbing, have struggled to shrug the label of “white van man”. Rightly or wrongly, the label has become synonymous with a reputation for being unethical, poor at administration, lacking in business acumen and frankly, unreliable. That was all until the tech industry decided to make mobile services sexy...

  • Meet Phambili, a new web app that helps commuters calculate taxi change

    Toby Shapshak, the editor and publisher of Stuff Magazine South Africa, gave a Ted X talk in 2014, in which he talked about how Africa is innovating out of necessity. A new web based app called Phambili app does exactly that by helping commuters who are seated in the front seat of taxis to calculate change for other commuters. The well known rule in taxis is that the commuters in the front seats calculate the change for that trip. In Cape Town, taxis have taxi conductors doing the job, but in cities like Johannesburg it is left to the...

  • Autonomous cars won’t really take off until manufacturers start cooperating

    Every month seems to bring a new development in the autonomous motoring space, whether it’s Tesla drivers being able to beta test software or trucks taking to the roads of Nevada. But real, universal autonomous motoring will remain a messy pipe dream until vehicle manufacturers and other industry players figure out how to collaborate in real and meaningful ways.