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Innovation

  • 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.

  • Technology is a differentiating factor for financial services firms

    Few industries are as ripe for technological innovation as the financial services sector. This opportunity, however, also carries considerable risk for established players that lag disruptors such as fintech start-ups that have been able to introduce a degree of disintermediation that eats into traditional financial services providers’ income. The introduction of Apple Pay is but one example of attempts to erode their position, with many more examples globally pointing to the shaky ground many companies in the financial services sector find themselves on. The opportunity for South African banks and financial product providers is enormous. The country’s advanced financial...

  • Early-warning asthma prediction device secures top spot at SA Innovation Summit

    The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Inventors Garage competition awarded PhD student Moses Kebalepile for his prototype, called the Asthma Grid, at the SA Innovation Summit. Kebalepile walked away with R25 000, incubation support from Standard Bank and an iPad for his early-warning device that predict asthma attacks. “I was surprised to win! There were so many good projects showcased at the TIA Inventors Garage; it just goes to show the incredible potential and talent that we as South Africans have. I think the work that we do locally is as good as what comes from the West, if not more inspired,”...

  • South Africa seriously needs to fix its education system to develop a knowledge economy

    South Africa’s education system is in a bad state. That was the grim message conveyed by Prof Roy du Pré (pictured above), chairperson of South African Technology & Training Platform at the recent SA Innovation Summit. It's easy to see what he means, especially if you combine all the headlines of the last few years -- from having the worst maths, science education in world to 80% of South African schools being labelled dysfunctional. There are, however, some inspiring programmes trying to tackle various challenges faced by the country's education system. From teaching children robotics and programming to partnering business leaders...

  • Fatherhood app wins at Early Childhood Development Hackathon

    The SA Innovation Summit's Hackathon for Early Childhood Development (ECD) awarded top honours to an app aimed at encouraging fathers to be more involved in the children's early care and development. NappiDaddi, as the app's called, was developed over a period of 24 hours by a team of amateur programmers who competed against nine other teams. The winning team was awarded R10 000 to further develop their platform. In a press release send to Memeburn, Kanya Msila, who participated in the winning team, said that NappiDaddi will encourage dads with various childcare challenges and includes elements such as leaderboards, exchanging of knowledge,...

  • 3D printers, cardboard and a giant robot: Omar-Pierre Soubra on the magic of Maker Faire

    Cape Town recently hosted its very first Maker Faire Cape Town. Calling those involved makers, the event saw some 4 000 attendants and over 40 different exhibitors over the weekend, which is a good number for Cape Town. It took place at the Lookout in the V&A Waterfront. The makers showcased a variety of 3D printers, electronics, artwork, and all manner of things created by the exhibitionists. Some of the exhibitions included Arduino Cape Town, the Cardboard Challenge, and a gigantic robot. Besides food stalls outside, nothing at the stands was for sale. This allows the event to be an experience and not...

  • Tech innovations diagnose healthcare, offer cures in the form of mobile and web based solutions

    In remote areas, a visit to the clinic, doctor, and hospital, can entail a serious and expensive trek. That's just one reason the health industry needs to be hacked, so to speak, and made accessible to all. This is exactly what happened recently at the Innovation Hub at Groote Schuur Hospital. Over 50 healthcare workers, academics, software developers, entrepreneurs and designers gathered for a day to co-create mobile and web-based solutions to address healthcare challenges. The event, dubbed The Health hackathon, was hosted by the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ Inclusive Healthcare Innovation. The event was hosted in...