Technological innovations have taken multiple industries by storm over the last few decades. However, insurance has often been pegged as a slightly more traditional industry. Enter insurtech. A portmanteau of “insurance” and “technology” inspired by the term fintech, emerging technologies are increasingly underpinning insurtech solutions.
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The developer’s view.
As co-organiser of the Jozi Amazon Web Services (AWS) user group and avid cloud advocate, Rory Preddy has a keen interest in AWS and surrounding technologies. Couple this with his status as a technology specialist in the BBD research and development team, and you have someone uniquely positioned to talk about the Amazon Echo Dot.
“I want her.” Needless to say, he is a fan.
The second-generation Amazon Echo Dot is a petite and powerful voice-controlled consumer device, with an intelligent personal assistant service known as Alexa. You can use Alexa to play music, entertain the kids with interactive games, read your books aloud and even control your smart home appliances.
For Preddy, the most immediate stand out with Alexa was the microphone. “I would use her because of the seven-microphone array, it’s incredibly sensitive and smart. Alexa triangulates the room and works out where your voice is coming from. With that information, she can then ignore any interference.”
As South Africans, we’re used to voice technologies not recognising our accents, but the Amazon Echo Dot had no problem understanding any of the curveballs I threw at it. This accuracy of the technology is what helps create a better overall user experience. Preddy reasons that “Amazon clearly spent lots of money getting this right and it was worth every cent”.
Unlike Cortana, Siri and Google’s Home Assistant, Alexa allows you to develop any skill you’d like and this makes it “really awesome” from a developer’s point of view. Skills are essentially voice-activated apps that you enable on your Alexa account. There are currently over 20 000 available skills and more being developed and released every week. This enables developers to customise their Alexa and bring life to coding in the cloud.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Preddy though. The Amazon Echo Dot is currently only sold in the USA, UK and Germany - with a beta version being tested in India and Japan. Due to this, the app that runs your Amazon Echo Dot is only available in those countries. Not being able to change the location from the United States made this a bit more challenging. Furthermore, to develop skills you need to use three accounts: an AWS account, an Amazon account and an Amazon developer’s account. Some of these issues will be negated when the Amazon Echo Dot and app are sold in South Africa.
The Amazon Echo Dot is technically an IoT Edge device and has a small central processor. This means it can do basic operations itself and only has to connect home when necessary. This decentralised computing infrastructure means that data, computing and skills are distributed in the most logical place between the data source and the cloud.
Slowly but surely, Preddy believes that services which integrate into Edge devices are part of the future where, for example, you will be able to easily transact and communicate with your banking app using only your voice.
Preddy summarises the Echo Dot as “an intuitive and insightful edge gadget, with a boatload of power and capabilities that supports an attractive and adaptable tool”.
Transparent fee structures are the way forward, and little by little South African financial service providers (FSPs) are moving in that direction.
BBD business analyst Ian Maas explains, “Simply put, transparency amounts to clarity around investors knowing how much they’re paying, what they’re paying for and what the impact will be on their returns. It’s clean, understandable pricing.”
Although South Africa still lags the rest of the world, transparency is being supported by the industry, who are promoting trust between the financial services industry and retail investors. A key factor in the 2008 financial crisis was people not understanding the risks of their investments. Transparency tackles this as it enables investors to understand the products\instruments and assets they’re investing in, the risks involved and the effect fees have on their investment returns.
According to Maas, despite the overall consolidation in fee structures, a big reason FSPs are avoiding being too transparent is because it costs money to implement and often full disclosure is not required by regulation. BBD believes that not only do FSPs need to disclose costs transparently and correctly, they must accurately calculate these costs. That’s the development effort and it’s not easy to do.
“The biggest problem is the lack of understanding on the investors’ behalf. Even with long-term insurance and investment products often being sold together, there are discrepancies in the investors’ knowledge. Investment products are generally quite well understood, but there is a lack of knowledge around the underlying instruments and the actual cost of the total investment. While investors are comfortable with long-term insurance products, the terminology used to present the fees is not that well understood. It’s a conundrum that transparent fee structures can solve.”
BBD’s financial services industry experience incorporates insurance, investment and banking. Due to this combined knowledge of the industry, BBD has in-depth experience in understanding domains and either integrating solutions into the client’s systems or creating new systems.
In this highly-regulated sector, Maas says the requirements for financial stability are crucial and need to be implemented. BBD’s best value offering lies in knowing how to unpack what is required, with the right skills to develop and maintain a solution that facilitates the necessary regulations.
One has to wonder if Satoshi Nakamoto ever thought this would happen back in 2008 when he invented the cryptocurrency as a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”.
A Bitcoin clone, Bitcoin Cash, recently came into being when the coders and miners behind the decentralised cryptocurrency couldn’t agree and split into Bitcoin Cash. Within 24 hours of trading opening, Bitcoin Cash was valued at more than $24 billion.
BBD executive Peter Scheffel explains, “In case you’re confused about what exactly a cryptocurrency is, think of it as digital cash. No government, company or single entity administers cryptocurrencies. Transactions are kept secure through cryptography, allowing for individuals to send anonymous peer-to-peer transactions. Blockchain technology enables shared record-keeping and processing, to ensure no digital money can be copied or spent more than once. Essentially a person can purchase products directly from a merchant without an intermediary such as a bank or financial institution.”
Bitcoin makes use of a form of mathematics that involves cracking codes. These codes are designed in such a way that they become significantly harder to crack over time and therefore require more computing time to crack. This is called mining. The total number of Bitcoins that can ever be mined is limited to 21 million and already two thirds have been mined.
As Bitcoin has become more popular, so the transaction processing speeds have slowed. This inability to scale or cope with high volume transactions (the Bitcoin network processes at seven transactions per second) was another reason for the establishment of Bitcoin Cash. Despite priding themselves on being decentralised, recent developments have shown that the cryptocurrency does in fact have central controllers - the coders and miners. The coders behind Bitcoin Cash believe that an 8Meg block size will allow for faster transactions and divert trade back to a point-to-point transaction, independent of intermediaries.
“Many people who have purchased their Bitcoins through exchanges, have also chosen to keep their Bitcoins with a third party such as an e-wallet or exchange, much like a traditional bank. Keeping your Bitcoins in one of these means that they have none of the protection of the underlying cryptocurrency. It also means that these users are at the mercy of their exchange or wallet provider. Only some wallet and exchange providers are catering for Bitcoin Cash.”
B2B Bitcoin payments are on the rise and since BBD is already involved in developing integrated payment solutions, we believe in a future where cryptocurrencies and cryptopayments are commonplace. We also see blockchains having many interesting applications for our clients in both the government and finance sectors for the likes of property management and verification purposes.
It’s early days yet, but remember that cryptocurrencies are a bet, not an investment.
Initial coin offerings (ICOs), also referred to as token sales, have become the latest fintech trend gaining popularity in the cryptocurrency environment. But what are they? Simply put, ICOs are used to raise investments for a particular project. But instead of traditional equity, investors receive electronic tokens for their investments, confirming their stake in the project.
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Unlocking possibilities to build a functional society was the theme at this year’s GovTech event and with the spotlight on public service delivery growing ever brighter, new sustainable models need to be explored to enhance current service delivery.
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We recently joined the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN), achieving APN Standard Consulting Partner status.
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With data breaches and hacks becoming more prevalent, protecting your client’s through stringent cybersecurity should be a top priority for your organisation.
South African educators are using data analysis to translate learners’ data into clear and actionable insights.
Working in ICT is very exciting and BBD is the top software development company in South Africa to kick start your career.
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Find out why several real concerns need to be dealt with before the blockchain technology can be ready for generic financial use.
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DevOps has the potential to save money, improve efficiencies and help the business recognise revenue sooner.
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BBD’s success in the automated testing space at Vodacom is a point of pride, as a system was implemented to bring reporting time down from five days to a few hours.
BBD has been moving Vodacom’s testing from manual to automated, with BBD test lead Prasad Bhogi leading the team. Using his automation experience, Prasad saw the opportunity to make a truly effective change for Vodacom, by radically cutting down on reporting time.
This was a new service that BBD was providing, with the team involved starting off a zero-base and having to understand the necessary requirements as they emerged, and the business behind what they were implementing. It was a complicated cycle of acquiring the knowledge and then implementing it.
In terms of developing a working automation system, Prasad explains that the first step was to not only understand the product and the product language, but also what level of testing was required by the client. As BBD had to build a framework from scratch, the team had to understand how the solution could be tested based on the tool they wanted to use. Once this initial hybrid framework was in place, the Vodacom team could then add in their requirements and the test team could accommodate these through a new Page Object Model (POM) framework. This process - of having to develop, receive requirements and implement - was one of Prasad’s main hurdles throughout the process, but one they more than overcame. Prasad also pointed out that despite the learning process being undertaken by both BBD and Vodacom, they maintained an excellent working relationships, so much so that Vodacom has requested the team work on other new projects now that the testing is stable.
Carla Vermeulen, a BBD tester who worked on Vodacom in the early phase, explains that “the reason automation was especially successful for Vodacom was because of the site stability”. Automation allows for increased work speed, faster defect finding, regression prevention and the ability to free up team resources. BBD is excited at the possibility to roll automation out to other clients, and are proud of the Vodacom team’s triumph with automation.
As to why he chose automation, Prasad explained that he is a person who likes deep dive into solutions and find the loopholes, solutions and gaps. “Automation is the right carrier for me because it allows me the opportunity to improve myself and what I’ve done. It keeps me interested”. Prasad is continuing his career in testing as he has the opportunity to continually grow and improve, with BBD providing the support by giving him the time and space to build his carrier and showcase his abilities.
The updated codes for the B-BBEE IT Charter were released in November 2016 and South African IT companies have had their work cut out for them to maintain their level of broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) compliance.
Cloud computing is transforming the way companies interact with their customers, with 93% of South African companies currently either implementing or planning the initialphase of their cloud strategy
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Recently BBD ranked number one in My Broadband’s 2017 Salary Survey for the IT sector, indicating a high employee happiness rating. Over 3 000 South African IT professionals were surveyed.
BBD Group today announced it has acquired a 26% stake in Fusion Software, a South African company providing integrated software solutions and business management tools.
BBD and Sphere Holdings (Sphere) are today delighted to announce Sphere’s acquisition of an additional 14.2% of BBD, a 32yr old R500 million a year custom software developer. The cash deal sees Sphere’s ownership stake rise to 49.9% which, together with 1.1% held by Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP), a respected education charity, makes BBD 51% black-owned.
Employing over 550 software developers, BBD is South Africa’s oldest and largest independent custom software development company, servicing the financial services, telecommunications and allied industries, and the public sector. BBD’s founders and management retain 49% ownership and will continue in their current management roles providing continuity of leadership, technical skills, client relationships and strategic execution.
This idea matured, grew some animated characters and ended up in my lap about one year ago. It was at this point that my team and I feverishly started this chaotic journey to deliver the Kids Banking application in record time. Needless to say the timelines never worked out, but what we have after a year is something to be very proud of. “A career highlight” as some people in my team have put it and it’s extremely satisfying for me to have lead one of the most strategic projects in the bank.
The app, which is available for Android, smartphones and tablets as well as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, is meant to help parents educate their children about earning, saving and spending money. An example of this is the Leopard character which encourages kids to complete “missions” or chores assigned by parents, such as tidying their rooms or watering the plants in order to earn money. Parents can teach children to earn money by paying money into the app when allocated tasks are completed.
From a marketing perspective, it’s all about brand affinity from a young age, which will be a massive win for them if Standard Bank is known as an organization that is able to provide value to this banking segment.
Thank you to all the BBD staff that were in my team to help me on this incredible journey to deliver a first of its kind app in SA
BBD represented by Anneke, Refilwe, Dobson and Tiaan participated in the hard preparatory work as well as delivery of the 2016 Local Government Elections (LGE). We are proud of the role we played working with the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) and our key strategic partner PwC (PriceWaterhouse Coopers).
Anneke and Tiaan were part of the team that was responsible for delivering the Online Candidate Nomination System. This was the first time an online system was used by political parties to nominate and submit their candidates to the IEC. Their roles also included delivering system training to IEC provincial officers in the Free State, Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng. Anneke was assigned to the National Elections Results Operations Centre to provide assistance to the IEC staff and political parties, whilst Tiaan provided technical support to the Gauteng Provincial Elections Results Centre during voting and counting of votes.
Refilwe was part of the team that was responsible for enhancing the Results System and later assigned to provide technical support to the Limpopo Provincial Elections Results Centre during voting and counting of votes. The Results System is used for results capturing, results auditing, seat calculation and allocation, reporting and publishing of results as they are counted until completion.
Dobson, part of the mobile application team, was responsible for revamping the IEC Mobile App. The mobile application provides interactive functionality and information relating to where a voter is registered, names of councillors contesting elections in a particular ward as well as results per ward, municipality and province. He was given the responsibility to work on the Dashboard Results System used to show results and seat allocation at Elections Results Centres across 9 provinces. Dobson was also assigned to provide technical support to the North West Provincial Elections Results Centre.
Both Sphere and BBD representatives visited the National Elections Results Centre during vote counting to show their support to the IEC.
On the 23rd of September 2016 BBD Celebrates a Colouful Heritage Day.
A generation, that varies by region and social and economic conditions, is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. Millennial’s are all about taking themselves to the next level, with new learning opportunities and the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Finally we have produced the ideal generation – they are open to change and connected with the planet, their parents, their peers and their feelings.
There are about 80 million of them, born between 1980 and 1995, and they're rapidly taking over from the baby boomers that are now pushing 60. BBD continuously attempts to capture the imagination of these Millennials as they bring a world of new possibilities and could change the world or at least the way things are done in their workplace - using technology. This generation are online natives, their world has always had the internet, cell phones, and now social media allows them to communicate instantaneously. The impact these young people have on technology is constantly improving and changing the ways businesses function today.
The significance of the Millennial generation was underlined by the results of the fifth annual ICT Skills Survey compiled by the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) in partnership with ITWeb, and they recognised that when a company is lucky enough to attract any of the qualified bright young minds, it makes sense to hang on to them, by understanding how to manage them.
To stay in the game, businesses can embrace the change and manage Millennials in the following ways:
Listen to Millennials and respect their ideas. They are dependent on their parents for personal and career advice and used to having loving parents who schedule their lives around the activities of their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don't take kindly to having their thoughts ignored.
Millennial employees are up for a challenge and change. Boring is bad. They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.
Millennial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Multiple tasks don’t phase them. Talking on the phone, while email and answering multiple instant messages – yes! So take advantage of their computer, cell phone, and electronic literacy. The electronic capabilities of these employees are amazing.
Millennials want to endorse and be endorsed, they need constant feedback and in particular, praise. They actively seek guidance and structure from their mentors, therefore be a firm and fair leader, creating boundaries that help them map out their career paths.
The IT Industry is traditionally poor at providing a life-work balanced workplace. Millennials work hard, but they are not always happy with sixty hour work weeks. Home, family, spending time with the children, are priorities, don’t lose sight of this.
Internet research counts 75,000,000 Millennials are preparing to join or joining the workforce. Millennials are ready to take on the world and companies must direct their enthusiasm and energy into projects that allow them to make a valuable contribution.
Although managing Millennials may be a challenge and risk adverse, they are still extremely desirable employees. Make your Millennial employees happy in a fun, yet structured setting, and you are building the foundation for the superior workforce you desire. You are developing the future of your workforce.
By Tarin Searle
Vodacom changed its colour to red recently. It was literally painted across South Africa and is regarded as South Africa’s biggest ever brand make-over.
The new branding saw Vodacom replacing its familiar blue and green colours with Vodafone’s red colouring, to essentially clone Vodafone’s global branding but keeping the Vodacom name.
The rebrand was more than marketing hype. The ability to implement the rebrand became mission critical to the company when Vodacom became the only Vodafone owned operator to be allowed to keep its name when rebranding to Vodafone. The problem in doing that was how to pull it off in two months!
Enter BBD and the competent and capable members of the VSP team. Under NDA and “top secret” authority the team set about a complete content change for Vodacom Business Self Help Portal, website, VodaManage and DealerWeb systems.
Successful delivery meant personal sacrifices in terms of huge overtime spent, to the point where team members had to forfeit attending the BBD VSP Team building as well as weekend time with both family and friends.
But doing what it takes is what is done at BBD. The team not only turned the rebrand around in just two months but did so in budget. The switch from blue to red was seamless with systems up and running within 15 minutes of go live, switched over and bug free! The team very much deserved the personal thank you they received from the client for BBD’s contribution to a successful project.