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Fi Istanbul’s Success Demonstrates Unlimited Market Opportunities in Turkey, the Middle East & North Africa

Posted on 18 May 2013 by Africa Business

Staggering 3,000 Visitors + 150 Exhibiting Brands and Record Re-Booking Volumes for the 2014 Event

Yes, we’ve got a lot to shout about and so we would like to start with a huge thank you to all of our exhibitors who helped to make Food ingredients Istanbul such a great success. As the only dedicated food ingredients event in the region, last week’s highly successful show demonstrates that this region is thriving and thirsty for the very latest ingredients, solutions, innovations and networking opportunities.

We are delighted to announce that Food ingredients Istanbul exceeded all forecasts and expectations with the impressive amount of 3,000 visitors and a 94% rebooking rate. As a launch event, Fi Istanbul welcomed attendees from over 80 different countries, filling all aisles and bustling exhibitor stands.

It is clear that the industry responded well to this launch event. Building on the high growth rates that the food industry is experiencing in this region, Fi Istanbul provided a strong platform for all food and beverage manufacturers to source from over 150 local, regional and international food ingredients suppliers.

The response from the exhibitors was overwhelming! Many claimed to have had one of the best shows ever, with a high quality of visitors, a steady flow of traffic during the 3 days and a good mix of visiting companies, including food manufacturers from dairy, ice cream, confectionary, meat, poultry and many more.

Turkey, for a global company, is a very important market for us to be close to our customers. Food ingredients Istanbul has been a great experience to meet new customers in 3 days and share projects, prototypes, concepts and innovations” Luis Fernandez , Vice-President Global Applications, Tate & Lyle

Natasha Berrow , UBM’s Brand Director, also commented, “Last week’s event really did surpass even our expectations! The positive response to this launch event, the new Fi branding and signage provided the innovative environment that such a growing region deserves.”

She continued “the record re-bookings are further indication that exhibitors see Fi Istanbul as the place to continue to meet their customers and to expand into this booming region. I’d like to express our appreciation for the tremendous and ongoing support of all our customers.”

“We are very impressed by the quality of visitors; quality is more important than quantity. We found a lot of good customers that we’ll probably start new business with” Stella Wu , International Sales Manager, JK Sucralose

Visitor feedback also surpassed all expectations. The great mix of local, regional and international food ingredients suppliers was complimented by many attendees looking to source new ingredients from companies they never heard of.

“I want to know new suppliers and I want to see some different varieties of products that I can use for my customers. This is the first year for this exhibition and it feels like it has being a successful opening and I’m sure it will get greater and bigger in the coming years.” Meleknur Tuzun, Sales Manager, Agrana

Fi Istanbul is a key part of the Food ingredients Global Portfolio strategy to extend the its brand into new regions, offering exhibiting clients a platform to engage with new customers and present their new business growth opportunities. With the key focus on business development, innovation and trade, in a region with one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world, Fi Istanbul proved to be one of the most cost-effective platforms to source new ingredients, grow market share and act as a stepping stone to this vastly and yet close to untouched food industry.

 

About Fi ingredients Global – the trusted route to market since 1986

Food ingredients first launched in Utrecht, The Netherlands in 1986 and its portfolio of live events, publications, extensive database, digital solutions and high-level conferences are now established across the globe to provide regional and a global meeting place for all stakeholders in the food ingredients industry. Over 500,000 people have attended our shows over the years, and billions of Euros of business have been created as a result. With over 25 years of excellence, our events, digital solutions and supporting products deliver a proven route to market with a truly global audience.

About UBM Istanbul

UBM Istanbul was established in April 2012 to connect people and create opportunities for companies wishing to build business between Europe and Asia, meet customers, launch new products, promote their brands and expand their markets. Premier brands such as Fi Europe, CPhI, IFSEC, Black Hat, Mother & Baby Show , Jewellery and many others and will become an integral part of the marketing plans of companies across more than 10 industry sectors.

About UBM

UBM plc is a global events-led marketing services and communications company. We help businesses do business, bringing the world’s buyers and sellers together at events and online, as well as producing and distributing specialist content and news. Our 5,500 staff in more than 30 countries are organised into specialist teams which serve commercial and professional communities, helping them to do business and their markets to work effectively and efficiently.

For more information, go to http://www.ubm.com

SOURCE UBM Live

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GSMA Establishes Office In Nairobi To Support Burgeoning African Telecoms Market

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

Mobile Connections in Sub-Saharan Africa Increase 20 Per Cent to 500 Million in 2013 and Are Expected to Increase by an Additional 50 Per Cent by 2018

iHub is Nairobi‘s Innovation Hub for the technology community, which is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. More information can be found here: http://www.ihub.co.ke/about

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.


NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The GSMA today announced that it has opened a permanent office in Nairobi, Kenya. The office will be based in the heart of Nairobi‘s Innovation Hub (iHub) for the technology community and will enable the GSMA to work even more closely with its members and other industry stakeholders to extend the reach and socio-economic benefits of mobile throughout Africa.

“It is an exciting time to launch our new office in Africa, as the region is an increasingly vibrant and critical market for the mobile industry, representing over 10 per cent of the global market,” said Anne Bouverot , Director General, GSMA. “The rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered an explosion of innovation and huge economic benefits in the region, directly contributing US$ 32 billion to the Sub-Saharan African economy, or 4.4 per cent of GDP. With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could also fuel the creation of 14.9 million new jobs in the region between 2015 and 2020.”

According to the latest GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence data, total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa passed the 500 million mark in Q1 2013, increasing by about 20 per cent year-on-year. Connections are expected to grow by a further 50 per cent, or 250 million connections, over the next five years which requires greater regulatory certainty to foster investment and release of additional harmonised spectrum for mobile.

The region currently accounts for about two-thirds of connections in Africa but the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services in Africa is among the lowest worldwide. Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa risk undermining their broadband and development goals unless more spectrum is made available. In particular, the release of the Digital Dividend spectrum – which has the ideal characteristics for delivering mobile broadband, particularly to rural populations – should be a priority.

The region also has some of the highest levels of mobile internet usage globally. In Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 per cent and 57.9 per cent respectively, compared to a 10 per cent global average. 3G penetration levels are forecast to reach a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017 (from six per cent in 2012) as the use of mobile-specific services develops.

However, despite the high number of connections, rapid growth and mobile internet usage, mobile penetration among individuals remains relatively low. Fewer than 250 million people had subscribed to a mobile service in the region, putting unique subscriber penetration at 30 per cent, meaning that more than two-thirds of the population have yet to acquire their first mobile phone. Clearly, there is an important opportunity for the mobile industry to bring connectivity, access to information and services to the people in this region.

The mobile industry contributes approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in the region. This has also spurred a wave of technology and content innovation with more than 50 ‘innovation hubs’ created to develop local skills and content in the field of ICT services, including the Limbe Labs in Cameroon, the iHub in Kenya and Hive Colab in Uganda.

Of particular note is the role of Kenya as the global leader in mobile money transfer services via M-PESA, a service launched by the country’s largest mobile operator Safaricom in 2007. What started as a simple way to extend banking services to the unbanked citizens of Kenya has now evolved into a mobile payment system based on accounts held by the operator, with transactions authorised and recorded in real time using secure SMS. Since its launch, M-PESA has grown to reach 15 million registered users and contributes 18 per cent of Safaricom’s total revenue.

To support this huge increase in innovation, the mobile industry has invested around US$ 16.5 billion over the past five years (US$ 2.8 billion in 2011 alone) across the five key countries in the region, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity. At the same time, given the exponential growth, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming ‘capacity and coverage crunch’ in terms of available mobile spectrum and the GSMA is working with operators and governments to address this critical issue.

GSMA research has found that by releasing the Digital Dividend and 2.6GHz spectrum by 2015, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa could increase annual GDP by US$82 billion by 2025 and annual government tax revenues by US$18 billion and add up to 27 million jobs by 2025. In many Sub-Saharan African countries, mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to citizens and the current spectrum allocations across the region generally lag behind those of other countries.

“A positive and supportive regulatory environment and sufficient spectrum allocation is critical to the further growth of mobile in Africa,” continued Ms. Bouverot. “I am confident that now that we have a physical presence in Africa, we will be able to work together with our members to put the conditions in place that will facilitate the expansion of mobile, bringing important connectivity and services to all in the region.”

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at www.mobileworldlive.com.

SOURCE GSMA

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Dr. Michael Goodisman, Business Development Manager at Ruslan International Ltd speak about his experience and knowledge on the freight forwarding industry at PowerLogistics Asia 2013 Conference on 30th-31st October 2013 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Africa Business

PowerLift Company Ltd. (PowerLift) will organize its second annual event “PowerLogistics Asia 2013”. This event is specifically focused to the project logistics service providers, mainly Asia based, as well as for the consumers of these services, namely:

Oil & gas

Heavy engineering

wind power

Mining

Hear Dr. Michael Goodisman, Business Development Manager at Ruslan International Ltd speak about his experience and knowledge on the freight forwarding industry at PowerLogistics Asia 2013 Conference on 30th-31st October 2013 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Here’s a brief interview with Dr. Michael Goodisman, on his views about the project logistics industry.

1. How do we define a project cargo?

As we fly the An-124, I would define project cargo for air transportation as outsized and/or heavy pieces that cannot be loaded into aircraft commonly used for general cargo such as the B747,

2. What sort of challenges do you face in a typical day?

Ruslan International fortunately is staffed to deal with the unusual. This can range from load planning challenges for large/outsized pieces; route planning issues as we are asked to fly to unusual destinations (perhaps high altitude airports with short runways); through to permit requests (as an ad-hoc operator we apply for permits for every flight). All this has to be handled as efficiently as possible for the customer because ultimately we want the customer to be confident in our abilities so that we win repeat business with them.

3. Where are the growth markets for your company?

The commercial market (as opposed to the declining defense market) is a real focus for us now. As for everyone, there was real decline in commercial work in recent years. However, there is a gradual increase now. In terms of commercial cargo types, the oil and gas, mining and aerospace markets (helicopters, satellites, aircraft parts) provide a backbone to our business.

4. What developments are in store for your company in the next 12 months?

I would say that anything out of the ordinary would be announced on a case by case basis.

5. What do companies need to consider when moving heavy cargoes to, from and within a region?

From an airlines perspective, planning and partnership with the airline are key. We have a lot of questions for the customer as they do for us. An efficient exchange of information (for cargo preparation, realistic cargo ready date, flight permit lead times, etc.) has to happen. On the day of the flight, things move very quickly indeed, many people are involved from the customer to the airline, handling agents, crane hire companies, etc. A real momentum builds up. With the right planning and real effort from all parties flights run smoothly and everyone is happy.

6. What are the greatest challenges facing the industry at the moment and how should companies be gearing up to face them?

Recent years have of course shown “the economy” to be the biggest challenge. As GDP’s grow so will air freight. As a project cargo airline operating ad-hoc routes world-wide with the An-124, we are in a niche market. We do quite naturally have the flexibility to adapt as projects appear around the world in an unpredictable manner.

Generally speaking, from an airlines point of view, the defense work has provided “a bridge” to help us (and many other airlines) through the recession. It is important now for airlines in general to pursue as many options as possible in both the defense and commercial markets. It comes back to flexibility.

7. What will be the main trends emerging in the industry over the next 12 months?

I cannot define a trend over the next 12 months, but broadly speaking over the next 5 to 10 years there might be more choice for project cargo by air especially if some of the lighter than air technologies which are being developed succeed and come online.

8. Where are the growth markets for the industry over the next 12 months?

Again, I cannot identify a specific growth over the next 12 months, but over the next “few years” there is potential for real growth across the board as confidence increases.

9. What single thing would most improve the industry at the moment?

For project cargo, we use a special aircraft, the An-124, for which we are required to apply for traffic rights for each and every flight. We cannot put in place “permanent” scheduled service permits for fixed routes because we cannot compete on general cargo. This means that for us, the lead time needed to apply for permits can be the biggest time component for a flight, especially when applying to certain countries that require up to 2 weeks lead time. Therefore, I would suggest that a reduction in lead times for permit applications is a target for project cargo by air, This is by no means easy to achieve, but it is a very worthwhile goal.

See you there at PowerLogistics Asia 2013 Exhibition and Conference on 30th-31st October 2013 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Visit www.powerlogisticsasia2013.com for more information.

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POPSCI NEWS

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Africa Business

  • 5 Ways Drones Could Help In A Disaster Like The Boston Marathon Bombing
    Plus three robots that are already saving lives.

    Yesterday, the President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Michael Toscano told U.S. News: “Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, [unmanned aerial systems] can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach.”

    Is he right? Well, he’s not entirely wrong. Drones, like manned helicopters used by police and emergency responders, can hover, provide a great overall picture of action on the ground, and direct aid to where it’s needed. The trick is that, right now, drones don’t do that uniquely, which is what a sales pitch on their special capacity demands. Boston did in fact have a police helicopter flying overhead, and the problem of low fuel reportedly overheard on the police scanner is a problem that another helicopter could have solved just as easily. Drones aren’t particularly special in disaster relief-yet.

    As drone tech advances, we could soon see remotely piloted vehicles joining the ranks of police departments and emergency response organizations. Here are five drones that might save a life in a future disaster.

    1. The MQ-8C Fire Scout: This full-size, unmanned helicopter could ultimately replace police or medical evacuation helicopters. The crew compartment can, among other things, be converted to hold an EMS team for medical airlift, or extra fuel to stay aloft longer.

    2. Quadrotors: Drones like the Aeryon Scout provide a wealth of video coverage, spying on rooftops and moving in fearlessly to document a blast zone. (Of course, civilian smartphones did much of that work in Boston.)

    3. Swarm of Swiss robots: By emulating the patterns ants use to hunt for food, these swarming drones can efficiently scan a large area and then converge where they are needed-a strategy that requires an awful lot of manpower when it’s used by human search-and-rescue workers.

    4. Incredible HLQ: This quadrotor is designed to carry relief supplies to places people can’t access, or can’t access fast enough, during an emergency. It’s in development now after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

    5. The Pars Aerial Rescue Bot: While not strictly applicable to Boston, this Iranian lifeguard quadrotor could aid in disasters along coastal areas, flying through severe weather to rescue people from drowning.

    Flying machines aren’t the only rescue robots we can expect in the future. Unmanned ground machines also have a lot to offer. CHIMP, a monkey-tank-robot created by Carnegie Melon, is designed specifically to climb over rubble or up ladders to save people in collapsed buildings. DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, in which CHIMP is an entrant, has inspired several robots designed to take the place of humans in emergency situations.

    Three types of ground robots are already saving lives around the world:

    1. A whole fleet of earthquake-response rescue robots: These are currently at work in Japan, and they include the RoboCue victim-recovery bot.

    2. Talon: QinetiQ’s bomb-disposal robot made a name for itself fighting IEDs in the Iraq War. There’s also a police version available.

    3. The Land Shark EODS: This remotely controlled robot is used to detonate explosives safely away from people. Massachusetts State Police have at least one on hand.

    The future will certainly see more robots rushing to save lives, and undoubtedly some of those will be flying. The future promise of flying rescuers, however, should not distract us from the actual ground robots that are being used in Boston presently.

        

  • FYI: Can Humans Get High On Catnip?
    Samantha J. Kitty fiending for some catnip Evan Kafka via Suzanne LaBarre
    Related: Can cats get high on marijuana?

    While cats may feel effects from marijuana-no word on whether Sir Harry Paus actually likes the experience-“kitty pot” does not have a reciprocal effect on humans.

    In the late 1960s, some researchers reported catnip gave people a marijuana-like high, but it turned out they had simply mixed up the two plants. As veterinarian Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York wrote to me in an email, “Think about it… catnip is cheap and legal. If it had a significant effect on people, everyone would be smoking it.”

    Meanwhile, cats do feel effects from marijuana, but it may be scary for them. “Animals can’t understand they’re being intoxicated, therefore it can cause considerable anxiety,” says Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in upstate New York.

    It’s not clear why the active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, doesn’t affect humans, Kornreich says. Pot affects cats because like many mammals, including humans and dogs, cats have receptors in their brains for pot’s active chemicals, cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors make pets susceptible to feeling symptoms when they inhale secondhand smoke or, more commonly, accidentally eat their owners’ stashes. (It’s actually a bigger problem with dogs, he says, because dogs eat everything.)

    Kornreich has seen pets come into veterinary emergency rooms after marijuana exposure. “The pets are presented for anxiety, active heart rate, acting a little unusual,” he says. “They may react differently to sound and to being touched” perhaps because, like humans, drugs alter their perception.

    Kornreich urges pet owners to take their pets to a vet if this happens, adding that vets are not required by law to report marijuana they run into during their practice. Most veterinarians care more about making pets better, he says. “It’s more just focused on the well-being of the patient.”

    He also strongly discourages purposefully exposing a pet to marijuana. Fido and Kitty can’t consent to getting high. “I don’t think it’s right or fair to make that decision for an animal,” he says.

    If pot affects cats because they have cannabinoid receptors, does that mean people aren’t affected by catnip because they don’t have nepetalactone receptors? Scientists aren’t sure. “While it seems that this is a reasonable hypothesis to explain why humans don’t respond to catnip like cats do, I cannot find any studies that rigorously test it,” Kornreich says. While many brain receptors are common across different animals, many receptors also differ, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for humans to lack a receptor present in cat brains.

    In cats, inhaled nepetalactone stimulates the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that processes odors. The olfactory bulb then interacts with the amygdala, the brain region associated with emotion and decision-making, and hypothalamus, which controls a variety of bodily functions. From the hypothalamus, nepetalactone stimulates a sexual response in cats that are genetically predisposed to sensitivity to catnip. (About 20 to 30 percent of cats don’t seem to react to the plant.)

    Some insects seem to react to nepetalactone, too. Strangely enough, chemical companies are studying nepetalactone because it seems to repel mosquitoes, ticks and mites, like a kind of natural DEET. For the insects to change their behavior around nepetalactone, even if negatively, suggests that they have nepetalactone receptors.

    As for smoking catnip: not only does it fail to get people high, it can make them feel pretty awful. Too much catnip, whether smoked or drunk as a tea, could cause headaches and vomiting.

    Have a burning science question you’d like to see answered in our FYI section? Email it to fyi@popsci.com.

        

  • Audi Wants Its Cars To Predict Where Traffic Will Be
    Traffic Jam epSos.de
    Side-stepping traffic by mining data

    At the GPU Technology Conference 2013 show in San Jose, Audi announced some of its plans for its Cars of the Future, The Register reports. One of the coolest ideas: cars that can predict where traffic will be, so drivers can avoid it.

    The amply named Predictive Traffic function would mine traffic records and current reports, including social media, as well as scheduled events like sports games that could bring cars to a standstill. The system, under Audi’s plan, could also predict a driver’s most likely destination based on their traffic history.

    Pretty neat! Along with that, Audi announced a concept for a reworked directions system that would operate in a “human-like” way, giving directions based on landmarks instead of streets. A Smart Parking feature would work similarly to the traffic-predicting system, but do it for parking spots: mapping out available spots and prices for those spots, rather than making you drive around in circles hunting one down.

    We don’t have too many details yet on exactly how these systems would work, but since Audi did make a self-driving car, hopefully we’ll see these projects come to life soon, too.

    [The Register]

        

  • Magnetic Brain Stimulation Removes Craving For Cigarettes
    Smoking Kills Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin via Wikimedia
    Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!

    Scientists at Medical University of South Carolina temporarily blunted cigarette cravings among smokers by magnetically stimulating nerve cells in their brains. The procedure, called transcranial magnetic stimulation, is already approved by the FDA to treat depression, though its efficacy is controversial (it’s also been prescribed to stop people from lying and treat adult ADHD.)

    In the experiment, researchers randomly assigned 16 smokers to either a 15-minute session of high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (in which coils placed over the forehead send magnetic pulses into the prefrontal cortex), or 15 minutes of sham treatment. The magnetic stimulation isn’t painful and doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia. The scientists told the volunteers not to smoke for two hours prior to the experiment.

    Before the treatment, the researchers showed the smokers both neutral images (such as mountain scenes) and images intended to provoke nicotine cravings (such as a person lightning a cigarette.) Then they asked the volunteers to rate how they felt about statements like “I would do almost anything for a cigarette now” and “I am going to smoke as soon as possible.” After the magnetic stimulation, the participants saw similar images and again rated how much they craved a cigarette.

    The researchers found that the participants who got the real magnet treatment expressed significantly less desire to smoke at the end of the experiment compared with those who got the fake treatment. In fact, the craving reduction was positively correlated with how nicotine-dependent the volunteer was, meaning that those who smoked the most saw the greatest decrease in cigarette craving after the magnetic stimulation.

    The authors of the study note that people trying to quit smoking would need several sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation per day in order to see longer-lasting reductions in cravings. The paper appears in Biological Psychiatry.

        

  • Everything You Need To Know About Ricin, The Poison Mailed To President Obama
    Ricin (on Breaking Bad) via Breaking Bad Wiki
    Ricin is one of the most poisonous substances on Earth, it’s scarily easy to make, and somebody is mailing it to the President and at least one U.S. senator. What it is, how it works, and more, inside.

    Yesterday, an envelope addressed to Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, was found to contain a white granular substance that was identified as ricin. Today, a similar letter addressed to President Obama was found. These envelopes were intercepted off-site–they never got anywhere near their targets–but as a precaution, Capitol Police have shut down mail service until they can figure out what’s going on.

    In the meantime, let’s talk about ricin!

    How poisonous is it?
    Oh, man. Very. It’s dangerous in just about any way it gets into your system, though ingesting (eating) it is about the least dangerous way. Injecting or inhaling requires about a thousand times less ricin to kill a human than ingesting, and that’s a very small amount indeed. An average adult needs only 1.78mg of ricin injected or inhaled to die; that’s about the size of a few grains of table salt–which ricin resembles visually.

    How does it work?
    Ricin, a toxic protein, infects cells, blocking their ability to synthesize their own protein. Without cells making protein, key functions in the body shut down; even in survivors, permanent organ damage is often the result of ricin poisoning. It’s a highly unpleasant way to be poisoned: within six hours, according to the Center for Disease Control, victims who have ingested ricin will feel gastrointestinal effects like severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to serious dehydration. Then the ricin infects the cells of the vital gastrointestinal organs as they pass through the body, leading to the failure of the kidneys, liver, and pancreas.

    Inhalation of ricin has a different effect, since the ricin proteins aren’t interacting with the same parts of the body. Instead of gastrointestinal problems, you’ll develop a vicious, bloody cough, your lungs will fill with fluid, and eventually you’ll lose your ability to breathe, causing death. Injection, too, is different, depending on where you’ve been injected, but will generally result in vomiting and flu-like symptoms, swelling around the place of injection, and eventually organ failure as your circulatory system passes the protein around the body. Death from inhalation or injection usually occurs about three to five miserable, agonizing days after contact.

    Interestingly, there aren’t any immediate symptoms, and indeed there can be a significant delay before symptoms show themselves, up to a day or two.

    Exposure on the skin is generally not fatal, though it may cause a reaction that can range from irritation to blistering.

    That sounds…horrible. Is there an antidote, at least?
    Haha. No. The US and UK governments have been working on an antidote for decades–here’s a nice article describing the progression of one such antidote–but there isn’t one available to the public. The CDC’s website states bluntly, “There is no antidote for ricin toxicity.” There are some steps you can take if you get to a hospital immediately; for ingestion, a stomach pump can sometimes prevent the ricin from reaching the rest of the gastrointestinal system at its full force. But…that’s about it, really.

    How does it stack up against other poisons?
    Well, that depends on what your aim is. Ricin is much easier to produce than other popular biological weapons like botulinum, sarin, and anthrax, but it is not as potent as any of those, which limits its effectiveness as a weapon. It also is not very long-lived; the protein can age and become inactive fairly quickly compared to, say, anthrax, which can remain dangerous for decades. There were experiments back around World War I attempting to make wide-scale ricin weapons, packaging it into bombs and coating bullets in it, but these proved not particularly effective and also violate the Hague Convention’s agreements on war crimes, so the US discarded ricin.

    It’s much more effective, weapon-wise, as a close-contact, small-target weapon–by injecting, as with Georgi Markov, or by putting small particles into an aerosol spray and blasting a target. It’s also not contagious, which limits its effectiveness as a tool of biological warfare. But it’s considered highly dangerous partly because it’s still outrageously toxic and partly because it takes no great skill to produce.

    So it’s not hard to make?
    Well…no. Like, not at all. It’s made from the byproduct of the castor oil manufacturing process. You take the “mash” of the castor oil seeds, which contain around 5-10 percent ricin, and perform a process called chromatography. Chromatography is a blanket term for a set of techniques used to separate mixtures, usually by dissolving in liquid or gas. The US government has done its best to eradicate recipes for ricin from the internet, sort of; a patent was filed back in 1962 for ricin extraction, and the Patent Office took it off the publicly available server in 2004 for safety reasons. That said, the recipe is super easy to find; here at the PopSci offices, I’m blocked from listening to Rdio on my work computer, but I found a recipe to make an outrageously deadly poison in about a minute.

    The techniques involved are undergraduate-level chemistry, creating a slurry with the castor bean mash and filtering with water and then a few easily-found substances like hydrochloric acid.

    It comes from castor beans?
    Ricin is a highly toxic protein that’s extracted from the seed of the castor plant, often called a “castor bean” or “castor oil bean,” despite not technically being a bean. The castor plant is extremely common; it’s used as an ornamental plant throughout the western world, prized for its ability to grow basically anywhere as well as its pretty, spiky leaves and weird spiny fruits. It’s also an important crop; the seeds are full of oil, and castor oil is used for lots of legitimate purposes. It’s a common laxative, for one thing, and since it’s more resistant to high temperatures than other kinds of vegetable oils, it’s a nice alternative to petroleum oil in engines.

    Wait, but you can eat it? So how is this a poison?
    Ah, yes. Castor oil is perfectly safe, according to the FDA and your grandma, but ricin is not castor oil. Castor seeds are still poisonous; this study says that a lethal dose of castor seeds for adults is about four to eight seeds. But the oil itself does not contain ricin; the ricin protein is left behind in the “castor bean mash” after the oil is extracted from the seed. Poisoning from eating the seed itself is rare.

    Have there been cases of ricin poisoning in the past?
    You mean, beyond the several times it’s been featured as a major plot point in Breaking Bad? Sure! The most famous is probably the assassination of Georgi Markov in 1978. Markov was a Bulgarian novelist, playwright, journalist, and dissident, and was murdered by the Bulgarian secret service, with assistance from the KGB, by ricin injection. He was crossing a bridge when he was jabbed in the leg with an umbrella, which delivered a ricin pellet into his bloodstream. He died three days later of ricin poisoning.

    There are plenty of incidents of people arrested for attempting (or, more often, succeeding) to make ricin; it’s a pretty easy poison to make. In fact, there was even another ricin-in-the-envelope attempt made back in 2003–a person identifying as “Fallen Angel” sent letters filled with ricin to the White House, apparently as a result of some new trucking regulations (seriously). “Fallen Angel” was never found, but the letters were intercepted and did not cause any injury.

    How dangerous are these envelopes filled with ricin?
    The envelope strategy has more to do with potential ease of getting the poison close to targets than its strength as a delivery system. If you’re targeting the President of the United States, it’s easier and more anonymous to mail a letter than to try to get close to him with an umbrella modified for ricin-stabbing. But it’s not a great way to poison someone with ricin. Assuming the letter actually got into the target’s hands, of the three ways ricin can get into a person’s system (inhalation, injection, ingestion), only one–inhalation–is really possible, and it’s not that likely.

    Inhalation as a weapon is best accomplished through a mist, ideally delivered through an aerosol. But that’s not possible in a letter full of powder. It’s possible that small granules of ricin could be released into the air and inhaled when handling the letter, but it is not an effective way to poison someone. And whoever’s sending these letters evidently doesn’t know that the government set up an elaborate mail-screening system after the 2001 Anthrax scare.

        

  • Mystery Animal Contest: Who Is This Fuzzy Sniffler?
    Guess the species (either common or Linnaean) by tweeting at us–we’re @PopSci–and get your name listed right here! Plus eternal glory, obviously. Update: We have a winner!

    So, here are the rules: To answer, follow us on Twitter and tweet at us with the hashtag #mysteryanimal. For example:

    Hey @PopSci, is the #mysteryanimal a baboon?

    And then I might say “if you think that’s a baboon, perhaps you are the baboon!” But probably not, because this is a positive environment and all guesses are welcome and also this is not a very common animal so guess whatever you want!

    The first person to get it right wins! We’ll retweet the answer from @PopSci, and also update this post so your amazing animal knowledge will be permanently etched onto the internet. Show your kids! Your dumb kids who thought that was a baboon!

    Update: And the winner is…Logan Copeman, who correctly guessed that this is a viscacha (Lagidium viscacia, also spelled vizcacha)! Specifically, this is a southern or mountain viscacha, a rodent found in South America. Yep, rodent: the viscacha is not related to the rabbit family, though it looks similar; the rabbit belongs to an entirely different branch of the evolutionary tree, and the fact that the viscacha looks so much like a rabbit is an example of convergent evolution. Convergent evolution describes when two species not closely related end up adapting to their environments in the same way.

    The viscacha lives in the southern Andes mountains, and is closely related to the chinchilla. It’s sometimes known as a long-tailed rabbit, thanks to its long ears and fluffy coat. It moves similarly to a rabbit, on very strong hind legs, hopping around its mountain home to eat a variety of grasses, mosses, and lichens. It lives in colonies, like all members of the chinchilla family, which can widely range in size. It’s not particularly rare; it is sometimes hunted for its meat and fur, but is believed to be holding steady, population-wise. Hi viscacha!

        

  • EuropaCity Is The Ultra-Green Mall Of The Future
    EuropaCity BIG
    Imagine a mall. Now imagine a mall in the year 2150.

    The design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), along with a few added team members (Tess, Transsolar, Base, Transitec, and Michel Forgue) have won first place in a competition to design an experimental “urban center” in France called EuropaCity. Located in Île-de-France, the wealthiest and most populous region in France, EuropaCity is intended to be a center of culture and retail, combining all sorts of experimental sustainable technologies.

    But as a design–and a pretty spectacular one at that–it’s best experienced through images. Click through to the gallery to see and read more about the proposal!

    Click to launch the gallery.

        

  • Nanosponges In Your Blood Could Soak Up Infections And Poison
    Nanosponge Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a “nanosponge” capable of safely removing a broad class of toxins from the bloodstream, including toxins produced by MRSA, E. Coli, poisonous snakes and bees. The nanosponges are made of a biocompatible polymer core wrapped in a natural red blood cell membrane. Zhang Research Lab
    Mice who got nanosponge injections survived lethal doses of toxins.

    A newly invented “nanosponge,” sheathed in armor made of red blood cells, can safely remove a wide range of toxins from the bloodstream. Scientists at the University of California-San Diego inoculated some mice with their nanosponge, and then gave the animals otherwise lethal doses of a toxin–and the mice survived.

    This is especially interesting because a nanosponge can work on entire classes of toxins. Most antidotes or treatments against venom, bioweapons or bacteria are targeted to counteract a specific molecular structure, so they can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution; this nanosponge can.

    Scientists led by Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UCSD, worked with a class of proteins known as pore-forming toxins, which work just the way they sound: By ripping a hole in a cell membrane. These toxins are found in snake venom, sea anemones, and even bacteria like the dreaded drug-resistant Staph aureus. The proteins come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all work in a similar way.

    They designed a nanosponge to soak up any type of pore-forming toxins. It consists of a tiny (85-nanometer) plastic ball wrapped in red blood cell membranes, which basically serve as a decoy and soak up the poison. The plastic ball holds everything together, and keeps the protein away from its real cellular targets. The entire nanosponge is 3,000 times smaller than a full red blood cell. The devices had a half-life of about 40 hours when the team tested them on lab mice, according to a release from UCSD.

    They injected mice with 70 times as many toxic proteins as nanosponges, and the sponges still neutralized the poison and caused no visible damage to the animals, the team reports. Next up are clinical trials in animals, to verify that it works safely in a wide range of cases.

    The paper is in this week’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

        

  • Wearing A Kilt Could Make Your Sperm Stronger
    Temperature regulation is the key to fertility.

    Temperature affects how much sperm a man makes, so there’s been speculation that the freedom offered by a kilt can increase production. Turns out that that at least could be right: a new metastudy says wearing a kilt “likely produces an ideal physiological scrotal environment, which in turn helps maintain normal scrotal temperature, which is known to be beneficial for robust spermatogenesis and good sperm quality.”

    The study (PDF), published in the Scottish Medical Journal, reviewed the literature on the link between scrotal temperature and reproduction. We know sperm fares better in lower temperatures, and some researchers have suggested that restrictive clothing could negatively affect sperm production. Enter: the kilt, which author Erwin J.O. Kompanje describes thusly: “The Scottish kilt is a male garment that resembles (but is not!) a knee-length, pleated skirt.”

    The author hypothesizes that, based on past findings about temperature and sperm production, a kilt, specifically one worn in the undergarment-free “regimental” style, would be an ideal environment for sperm production. Kompanje searched through related research, focusing on statistics in Scotland and noting along the way that 70 percent of kilt-wearers choose to go regimental. Kilts (at least in Scotland or other countries where they’re more commonly worn) might also be psychologically valuable, increasing feelings of masculinity when worn. Kompanje goes so far as to write that a downturn in Scottish fertility is correlated with the frequency of kilts being worn, although he admits it’s still somewhat speculative until a randomized trial happens. Gentlemen, put on your kilts for science.

        

  • We Could Eat Trees: Scientists Turn Inedible Plant Cellulose Into Starchy Snack
    Turning plant byproducts into digestible carbs could feed more people.

    Someday, it will be be summer again and it will be time for fresh sweet corn. In the future, you might be able to eat the whole thing, cob and all.

    This weird possibility is courtesy of some scientists at Virginia Tech, who have transformed cellulose, a mostly indigestible polymer, into helpful, indispensable starch.

    Plants produce cellulose and starch, which are chemically similar, for very different purposes. Cellulose forms the cell walls of most plants, algae and even some bacteria, and we use it for anything from clothing (cotton is almost all cellulose) to paper to ethanol. Starch is a plant’s energy source, and it’s ours, too, in the form of tasty things like potatoes, wheat and corn. The difference between the two is a simple change in the hydrogen bonds that form the molecules.

    Animals like cows and pigs can digest cellulose thanks to symbiotic bacteria in their digestive tracts, but humans can’t. It’s important in our diets as source of fiber, in that it binds together waste in our digestive tracts. Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, set out to make it a food source.

    Since cellulose and amylose are both glucose chains, you would just have to rearrange their hydrogen bonds. This is anything but simple, although essentially Zhang and colleagues used chemistry. They worked with a series of synthetic enzymes to break down the hydrogen bonds in some plant material that would not otherwise be used for food, like corn cobs and leaves. The “enzyme cascade” enabled the cellulose molecules to reconfigure into amylose, which is a form of starch. A key ingredient in this process, a special polypeptide cap, is found in potatoes.

    The resulting product is not exactly the future of bread flour, but it can be used as a fiber source, or food-safe biodegradable packaging, perhaps. The remaining portion of the original material was treated with microbes to produce a form of glucose that can then be used for ethanol. The whole process didn’t require any unusual heat or chemical reagents, other than the enzymes themselves, so it would be easy to reproduce on larger scales, Zhang and his colleagues say.

    Cellulose is the most common carbohydrate–indeed the most common organic material–on the planet, so using it for food could be a superb way to feed millions of people, they argue.

    “There is an urgent need to use abundant and renewable nonfood agricultural and forest residues and dedicated bioenergy crops that can grow on marginal land and require low inputs,” they write. The paper appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

        

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IBM Report: Technology Holds the Key to Economic and Social Reform in Accra, Ghana

Posted on 12 April 2013 by Africa Business

Cloud computing, Big Data and mobile technologies can help transform Accra into a smarter city – improving lives and bolstering the West African hub’s continued rise to prosperity

 

Joe Mensah, Country General Manager, IBM Ghana (left) presents an IBM Smarter Cities report on Accra, Ghana to the city's Mayor, Alfred Vanderpujie. (PRNewsFoto/IBM)

 

ACCRA, Ghana, April 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the launch of a report entitled “A Vision for Smarter Growth: an IBM Smarter Cities Report on Accra, Ghana” that highlights how the rapidly emerging West African city should turn to technology to transform its key urban systems. Based on the opinions of local experts from across public and private sectors and civil society, the report identifies city services, transportation, and energy as essential for Accra‘s urban reform.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, driven by an emerging oil and gas industry, a growing base of consumers and significant foreign investment. Its capital, Accra, is one of Africa‘s fastest emerging cities. According to Mastercard’s African Cities Growth Index, Accra is ranked Africa‘s top city in terms of economic potential over the next five years. Accra has also experienced significant demographic growth, the city’s population expanding by over 1 million people – a 35 percent increase in the past decade, placing increasing strain on the city’s resources.

“As Ghana’s capital, Accra is emerging as one of Africa‘s economic success stories,” said Alfred Vanderpujie, Mayor of Accra. “But such growth is not sustainable in the long term if we do not act now to put in place the systems and processes of the future. Technology is clearly one of the fundamental building blocks for creating a smarter and better functioning Accra.”

The publication of the IBM report follows the launch of the Ghana government’s National Urban Policy Framework and Action Plan, which is aimed at improving infrastructure and raising revenue in Ghana‘s cities to reduce poverty and tackle urban growth challenges.

“Cities across Africa are facing the dual challenge of rapid urban and economic growth,” said Joe Mensah , Country General Manager of IBM Ghana. “IBM’s approach is to enter a dialogue with key stakeholders and experts on the ground to understand the challenges and explore where technology can be successfully applied to transform the systems on which our cities depend. The scale of Accra and its challenges creates a manageable environment for implementing smarter systems that could really improve lives and business.”

Transforming City Services
Rising numbers of residents place increased strain on existing resources and require more effective delivery of city services such as water, sanitation, refuse, public safety, education and healthcare. The Government of Ghana sees improved revenue collection as key to Accra‘s transformation and its ability to fund investment across all of the city’s systems – a key part of the country’s Urban Policy Framework and Action Plan:

“We estimate that Accra loses up to 50 percent of its current revenues to fraud or underpayment by residents,” said Lydia Sackey , Metro Director of Budget, Accra Metropolitan Assembly. “Revenue generation is key to improving city services in Accra. Quite simply, if we don’t raise enough revenue, we are not able to perform our functions and produce enough services for people in the city.”

The IBM report highlights how mobile payment systems could help make the process of paying taxes easier for Accra‘s residents in the future. Hosting city services in the cloud would translate to more transparent and cost-effective municipal service delivery and an online platform for cataloguing property values could lead to a substantial increase in property tax revenues.  Big Data analytics could help city authorities more easily identify cases of tax under payment or fraud.

The Transportation Headache
Like all African cities which are currently experiencing rapid rates of urbanization, transportation is one of Accra‘s key challenges with growing numbers of citizens and vehicles placing increasing pressure on the city’s road networks. With 90 percent of all transport in Accra by road, traffic jams have a negative effect on many other areas such as business, emergency response, the environment, education and healthcare.

The IBM report lists a number of areas where technology can help. While the long-term goal should be the construction of a modern mass public transit system, instrumented, interconnected and intelligent technologies can help in the meantime to form the basis of a smarter transportation system. Smart and networked traffic lights could help to ease the flow of traffic through the city. Cameras and social media technologies could help monitor the road network and provide intelligence to decision makers. By using Big Data technologies to analyze mobile phone data, city officials could gain a clearer view of how people move around within the city and how the existing transportation systems could be enhanced.

The Energy to Grow
Ghana has grown so fast in recent years that electricity supply has become a serious problem and Accra regularly suffers from load-shedding and blackouts. The IBM report highlights energy source diversification from Ghana‘s current 77 percent reliance on hydro-electricity as key to improving supply as well as establishing new commercial enterprises.  For example, telco provider Airtel is piloting the use of wind and solar power as a backup to grid power for its mobile stations in Ghana – an alternative to the costly and environmentally unfriendly generators that businesses rely on.

“Telecommunications sites that are near grid power will always use grid power and in Ghana that comes to about 70 percent of sites. But even those that are on grid power still have generators to back them up because of the grid’s lack of reliability,” said Philip Sowah , CEO of Airtel Ghana.

Smart meters can help monitor and manage electricity distribution and smart grids can help energy providers anticipate and isolate problems limiting impact on lives and business. By building a smarter energy system, Accra can help lay the groundwork for future investment and economic growth.

Laying the Foundations for Smarter Cities Across Africa
In addition to working alongside leaders in Accra, IBM is actively engaged in dialogue with cities across Africa to help public and private sectors address urban challenges and opportunities. In 2012, an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team was deployed in Nairobi, Kenya to advise on technology solutions to resolve Nairobi‘s traffic challenges; while another team spent a month in the city of Tshwane, South Africa developing a crowdsourcing solution to improve the city’s water management system and enable citizens to report water leaks. Further teams will be deployed in other African cities this year. IBM’s new Africa Research Lab is also developing pilot solutions to optimize traffic management, public safety and government services.

 

SOURCE IBM

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CTO, Zain: “Data growth is the biggest challenge in today’s telecom market.”

Posted on 02 April 2013 by Africa Business

Yousef Abu Mutawe, CTO, Zain, Jordan is delivering the opening keynote on Day Two of the Broadband MEA conference, taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show we speak to him on Zain’s activities in the past year and the challenges it is facing in the next one.

What major developments have there been for the broadband industry in your region over the past year?In the past year the major step for Zain was the introduction of HSPA+, which delivered a significant speed boost for customers with compatible devices. With an eye on continuing evolution we have also begun some LTE trials. On the fixed line side we have started rolling out Ethernet-to-the-Home (ETTH) and Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH).

 

Is FTTH really necessary for businesses and consumers, and what are the stumbling blocks to rolling it out?

From our findings there is a lot of demand for FTTH. However, the high cost of constructing an FTTH network is really a major obstacle. Having to lay down fresh cable is costly, but the use of overhead cables and partnerships with utility companies may significantly reduce TCO. In addition, micro trenching is making it a more feasible option.

How important is wifi offload to your rollout plans?

Wireless broadband delivered through HSPA is reaching the congestion stage, so wifi offload is an important part of our strategy. More of our customers are beginning to rely on wireless broadband as a replacement or an alternative for fixed broadband and this extra demand is creating an additional challenge for us. At the moment the adoption of LTE is too high due to prohibitive spectrum costs. Wifi has therefore become the most viable option for offloading part of our traffic given that the TCO of wifi is low and that it can serve localised areas more efficiently.

In areas of high demand high contention ratios can affect performance. What steps have you put in to ensure that you have enough capacity to deal with this?

Using compression tools for data is useful on the access part, while caching engines help save on international bandwidth. We also have policies in place to throttle the connection of customers that might be abusing the service.

Where does fixed wireless come into your planning and if so what technologies will you be using?

This year, we have started deploying FTTH using the micro-trenching excavation method. In addition, we have started the ETTH using and we have a smart buildings solution, which the DSLAM cabinet is located near to the building. We are also working with regulators on opening up the local loop, which will help to give customers more choice.

What are the biggest challenges you expect to be facing over the next 12 months?

Data growth is clearly the biggest challenge in today’s telecom market and as an operator we have to invest heavily in order to keep up and to grow the data network. The real balancing act is that operators have to manage investors’ expectations in the short term while building to generate a ROI for the long term.

The Broadband MEA conference is taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE, Dubai, UAE.

Source: http://mea.broadbandworldforum.com/cto-zain-data-growth-is-the-biggest-challenge-in-todays-telecom-market/

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Director, Product Marketing, Etisalat: “FTTH is necessary for businesses and consumers”

Posted on 02 April 2013 by Africa Business

Ahead of the Broadband MEA 2013 conference, taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE, Dubai, UAE, we speak to Maen Haddad, Director/Product Marketing, Etisalat on the latest broadband developments in the region and his views on issues such as piracy and FTTH deployment.

What major developments have there been for the broadband industry in your region over the past year?

Etisalat has played a key role in Broadband growth in the UAE with the latest fibre optic technology being implemented across the country. This major initiative involved rolling out a fibre network throughout the UAE, providing customers with high-speed internet of up to 300Mbps.

As demand from consumers and businesses for broadband in the MENA region increases, the number of broadband lines is expected to increase exponentially. The UAE has reached a broadband penetration level that is on par with many advanced nations. This is a key indicator for national competitiveness and economic development.

Which would you choose? Investing in coverage or investing in increasing speeds to existing customers?

To be able to provide maximum value to its customer base, Etisalat has adopted a two-pronged approach where both coverage and speed are improved. Conducted in phases, the initial focus was on covering the UAE with a fibre network and later, offering variety of high speeds and bundled services that are designed to suit all customer needs.

To what extent does wifi offload come into your thinking?

As mobile broadband adoption increases rapidly, demand for data traffic has also simultaneously gone up. Therefore, wifi offload is a solution for the industry today not only for data offload but also for voice and messaging, offering a wider opportunity for the usage of wifi within our service portfolio.

Wifi services today are a value-add in our broadband product portfolio. This enables customers to connect to the Internet anywhere and at anytime. Customers choose to use the wifi instead of 3G due to different price structures.

Are curated, operator-managed OTT/IPTV services the best way of reducing piracy?

OTT and IPTV demand will trigger increasing pressure on broadband access to providers to increase delivery speeds and the permissible download volume. Content providers and distributors will have to make major decisions about how consumers will access content to reduce piracy.

In the best case scenario, content providers enjoy greater audience aggregation opportunities, while consumers benefit from more flexible and possibly more diversified access.

Piracy rates can come down when consumers perceive that they can benefit from new options, including the ability to select and pay for specific content rather than having to pay for tiered service containing plenty of undesired content.

Telecom operators in the region face credible threats to core revenue streams and piracy is indeed one growing threat. They have responded by reducing availability of “free” content and enhancing availability of content to paying subscribers. Some incumbents also have resorted to strategies including caps on monthly downloads and new service tiers based on download volume.

OTT and IPTV alone, however, cannot successfully compete and defeat piracy unless more aggressive enforcement tactics are carried out, e.g., suspension and termination of end user subscriptions and blocking access to specific sites.

Is FTTH really necessary for businesses and consumers and what are the stumbling blocks to rolling it out?

FTTH is necessary and very important for businesses and consumers in the UAE, especially since the country ranks the highest in terms of internet penetration in the region. At the same time, the stumbling blocks to FTTH blocks have been:

  • The customer’s availability and willingness to install Optical Network Terminal (ONT) in his/her home.
  • Putting fibre in the relevant areas where it is needed.
  • The ability to monetise from an early stage.

Are there enough services out there to drive adoption of faster speeds and is it up to the operators to get involved?

Yes there are enough services, and there are always more bandwidth-hungry services in the pipeline. Operators have a critical role to get involved. Etisalat is a regional player and based in a country with a high subscriber base so it clearly understands that there is limited opportunity for growth of revenue by only adding new subscribers. The focus is now expected to shift to other areas such as higher mobile data services adoption and value-added services. Mobile data services adoption will be driven by the availability of compatible mobile devices, affordable data plans and the rapidly rising mobile internet user.

Today a high number of ecommerce transactions taking place in the UAE are through mobile devices. With an increasing penetration of OTT-delivered services and multiscreen access to TV and other video, marketing innovation to drive revenues through these growing use models is the winning strategy.

Etisalat has taken a lead in investing in futuristic technologies especially LTE, to meet these increasing demands in the market. With this investment, Etisalat has also continuously launched a great value added services meeting the requirements of consumers as well as enterprises.

Where does fixed wireless come into your planning and if so what technologies will you be using?

Currently Etisalat is using WiMax and is trialling LTE for triple-play services. Due to the portability of the WiMax technology, it has seen high adoption among enterprises in the region. It can be quickly deployed to remote locations. In terms of costs it cuts down investments on the network, when compared to GSM and 3G, enhancing speeds and operability at greater distances.

The commercial offering of Etisalat’s LTE service began in December 2011 with the launch of LTE USB modems that enabled customers to access LTE (4G) super-speeds of up to 150Mbps. To date, Etisalat has integrated hundreds of base stations with complete mobility to the 3G network, covering 80 per cent of the populated area of UAE. In 2012, Etisalat successfully tested the world’s highest 4G LTE speeds of 300 Mbps.

Do you see customer resistance to bandwidth caps, line throttling and traffic management?

Currently Etisalat doesn’t have bandwidth caps on fixed services and at the same time have a fair-usage policy to ensure high quality of service to all customers.

What are the biggest challenges you expect to be facing over the next 12 months?

With the upcoming Bitstream project, we expect the competition to increase leading us to bring to market solutions satisfying the needs and requirements of customers.

Maen Haddad, Director/Product Marketing, Etisalat is speaking in the Customer Experience Improvement Strategy stream at the Broadband MEA conference, taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE, Dubai, UAE.

Source: http://mea.broadbandworldforum.com/director-product-marketing-etisalat/

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Nawras CEO: “Data throttling harms customer perception of service quality”

Posted on 02 April 2013 by Africa Business

Ross Cormack, CEO of Nawras is delivering the opening day keynote address at the Broadband MEA 2013 conference taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the conference we speak to him about the challenges facing the Omani operator in the region.

What major developments have there been for the broadband industry in your region over the past year?

In Oman the main development has been the release of spectrum to enhance current mobile broadband services (3G based) and allow for introduction of LTE. Nawras has quickly taken advantage of this new spectrum and is turbocharging its entire mobile network and will launch LTE very soon.

The government has developed a national broadband strategy which will, during the coming years, enhance the ability to increase the reach and speed of broadband to a larger portion of the Omani population and business sector.

To what extent does wifi offload come into your thinking?

Wifi off-load is part of our network strategy to enhance the customer experience and to enable us to monetise data in a more efficient way. It is essential especially in shopping centres and malls where normal coverage is constrained due to the indoor location and volume of content downloads.

Sometimes marketing can be too successful. How do you ensure that you have enough capacity to meet with demand?

As additional spectrum has been awarded, Nawras is conducting a total revamp and modernisation of its mobile network, while at the same time investing in capacity enhanced technologies (LTE). We have also upgraded our transmission to IP and continue to utilise fibre to connect base stations to our core. Our core has been upgraded to the latest technology standard and we have enhanced our international transmission capacity. You should always be ahead of your indicators of network, customer usage and feedback.

Which would you choose? Investing in coverage or investing in increasing speeds to existing customers?

Nawras is investing in both by turbocharging its entire network and also increasing its network footprint to improve customer experience. You have to strike a balance; coverage gives you the reach and customer satisfaction of being connected irrespective of location, while speed is essential in specific areas of heavy usage.

Is FTTH really necessary for businesses and consumers, and what are the stumbling blocks to rolling it out?

Yes, the digital era has just started and there will be continued growth of data-based applications and services. FTTH has to be reviewed from a long term perspective and requires an increased level of co-operation among operators. With the creation of a government-owned National Broadband Company, the Omani market will see a fast development of FTTH based infrastructure. By securing an efficient and economical roll-out of FTTH, the operators can focus their intention and investments to service development and meet customer demand.

Fibre is more essential for business customers due to heavy constant usage.  There are plenty of rollout stumbling blocks, but most critical is the right-of-way to lay the fibre in built up areas.

Are there enough services out there to drive adoption of faster speeds, and is it up to the operators to get involved?

There is more than enough speed and capacity in our 3G network to provide exciting customer experiences for the majority of services currently being used on the Internet. Where LTE makes a big difference is in video streaming, music and online/real time gaming. In addition LTE offers new potential for cloud services.

Do you see customer resistance to bandwidth caps, line throttling and traffic management?

The challenge for operators is to ensure that everyone gets the best experience from their data networks. Unfortunately, there are cases where certain applications, services and usage profiles of a small minority, adversely affect the experience of the majority. Traffic management, including bandwidth caps, is a key element to ensuring every customer gets a quality experience. Data throttling harms customer perception of service quality so Nawras is phasing out all plans where this exists.

What are the biggest challenges you expect to be facing over the next 12 months?

We are confident that the investments we are currently undergoing will turbocharge our network. Introducing LTE and increasing our network footprint will rapidly enhance the customer experience.  The initiatives taken by the government of Oman during 2012 will enable us to benefit from extra frequency and we have now embarked on our largest investment project ever. As we get our network (both coverage and speed) into shape, we can roll out products that customers want and be much more active in the fixed corporate market. We have a huge focus on our customer experience programme – it’s not simply words!

Source: http://mea.broadbandworldforum.com/nawras-ceo/

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Uganda maps just got better

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Africa Business

Over 30,000 places in Uganda mapped including businesses, market centres, shops and churches

 

In Uganda we have one of the most active map maker communities that has added  a great deal of points, places of interest and roads.  Ugandan students were also part of  more than 1800 student super mappers trained from across Africa on Google Map Maker and thanks to them Makerere University, Uganda Christian University, Metropolitan University Business School, International Health Sciences University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Sikkim Municipality are now on Google maps.  Over 30,000 places in Uganda including businesses, market centres, shops and churches have also been mapped.  Google has provided local domain and driving directions.   During the last elections a map your polling station competition was organised and produced great results.  Max Adoko, Ugandan Map Maker Advocate since March, 2011, says, “ Lack of comprehensive maps is Uganda is what propels to do the mapping.”

See Uganda maps

Evans Arabu, Program Manager, Google

This is a replicated story in many African countries.  From basic maps of major roads to detailed maps in many African countries, cities and towns, these maps have since evolved to include local domains, driving and walking directions, traffic information, Street View imagery in South Africa and Botswana, and turn by turn GPS navigation in South Africa. The transformation of the maps we use everyday is driven by a growing industry that creates jobs and economic growth globally.

 

Twenty years ago, we used paper maps and printed guides to help us navigate the world. Today, the most advanced digital mapping technologies—satellite imagery, GPS devices, location data and of course Google Maps—are much more accessible. In Africa, the quest to create comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use Google Maps started about 4 years ago. By sourcing information from local businesses, governments, partner providers and of course, our volunteer Map Maker community, our road coverage in Africa has increased from 20% in 2008 to 75% in 2012, and the the number of towns and villages mapped has grown by 1000 percent. This change in mapping technology is improving our lives and helping businesses realize untold efficiencies. Stanbic Bank Uganda have mapped over 160 ATM locations onto Google Maps.

 

The transformation of the maps we use everyday is driven by a growing industry that creates jobs and economic growth globally. To present a clearer picture of the importance of the geo services industry, Google commissioned studies from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Oxera. The studies revealed that maps make a big economic splash around the world. For example, the global geo services industry is valued at up to $270 billion per year and pays out $90 billion in wages. The infographic below illustrates some examples of the many benefits of maps, whether it’s improving agriculture irrigation systems or helping emergency response teams save lives.

 

Over 1.1 billion hours of travel time are saved each year according to the report.  This is because maps are such an integral part of how we live and do business. That’s why it’s important to understand the need to invest in the geo services industry so it continues to grow and drive not only the Ugandan economy but the global economy as a whole. Investments can come from the public and private sectors in many forms—product innovation, support of open data policies, more geography education programs in schools and more.

 

Google is proud of the contributions that Google Maps and Earth, the Google Maps APIs and our Enterprise solutions have made to the geo services industry and to making maps more widely available, but is looking forward to get more data to map the whole of Uganda.

 

 

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Regional Manager Gulf, Google: “Mobile search is becoming increasingly crucial”

Posted on 29 March 2013 by Africa Business

Mohamad Mourad, Regional Manager Gulf, Google is delivering a keynote of the opening day of the Broadband MEA conference, taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show we speak to him about his role and what opportunities he sees for Google in the region.

What excites you most in your role as Regional Manager Gulf, Google?

For me, Google is all about doing cool things that matter, about thinking big, then thinking bigger. We are lucky in the Gulf to get to work with some of the most powerful brands and teams. I am always inspired by the people I meet with – from entrepreneurs and developers to content creators and everyday users.

How important is online video for the Middle East region?

The Middle East region is a global leader on YouTube with 285 million views a day, putting the region in the second place globally behind the U.S. and ahead of Brazil. In addition to that, more than two hours of content are uploaded onto the platform every single minute.

Naturally, much of the content coming in from and being consumed by the Middle East is in Arabic, which is why providing locally relevant content was a priority. We developed local domains in eight countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. By localising the YouTube experience, we made it easier for people to find popular videos in their country along with those that are rising in popularity which were locally relevant to their language and interests.

In the Middle East alone, YouTube playbacks grew by more than 28 per cent between October 2011 and October 2012; demonstrating the impact that video content has in the region and how important it is to make it accessible.

Saudi Arabia also leads the world in the number of daily video views conducted on mobile devices with mobile views making up 25 per cent of total YouTube views around the world. In fact, YouTube traffic through mobile devices has more than tripled since 2011.

The internet was lauded for the effect it had in supporting the Arab spring over the last two years. However, in the face of censorship from governments, can technology continue to have the same impact?

Free expression is a core Google value and critical to our mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At Google we have a bias in favour of people’s right to free expression in everything we do. We are driven by a belief that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual. But we also recognise that freedom of expression can’t be — and shouldn’t be — without some limits. The difficulty is in deciding where those boundaries are drawn. For a company like Google, with services in more than 100 countries – all with different national laws and cultural norms – it’s a challenge we face many times every day.

For all our various products, services and platforms, we work hard to create a community which everyone can enjoy and can enable people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what is OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.

It is important to note that Google is not, and should not become, the arbiter of what does and does not appear on the web.

How important is the creation of local content for the Middle East region?

Local content creation is on the top of our priorities in the MENA region. Creating a web that is relevant to the average Arabic speaking internet user is vital, particularly when you consider that the total Arabic content on the web represents just three per cent of the total digital content online— while Arabic speakers make up more than five per cent of the global population. We have launched initiatives aimed at just that, with last year’s “Arabic Web Days” – a month long series of online and offline events dedicated to boosting the amount of Arabic content on the web, in collaboration with several international, regional and local partners.

With video being a huge star in MENA, eight different countries in the region have their own local YouTube domain where locally relevant content, including top videos and top channels for each country can be viewed.

Numerous businesses and other entities have channels that act as a tool for education and news. In the UAE, important figures such as Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum communicate via video about their initiatives. Competitions such as YouTube’s Your Film Festival enable talented directors from the region to submit their short films for voting and a chance to develop them into a feature-length movie. Media entities such as The Dubai Press Club upload videos of important discussions that highlight current issues in the media, which help garner awareness for local issues, and much more.

As the world goes mobile, what opportunities do the wide-scale global LTE rollouts offer for the Google?

2012 was a great year for mobile search. As consumers continued to turn to their mobile devices, we also saw marketers embrace mobile in a big way. Marketers have moved beyond asking why they should be on mobile, and are now talking about how they can maximize their mobile efforts. We fully expect that this will continue in 2013, and that mobile search will continue to play a key role in every advertiser’s marketing mix.

We live in a multi-screen world now where people are constantly connected, moving back and forth between different devices throughout the day. Search plays a key role in helping people pick up where they left off between devices, with 63 per cent searching again on the second device when they continue an online activity. As this cross-device behaviour continues to grow, there’s also an important opportunity for marketers to reach customers on search as a way of bridging experiences across devices, particularly on mobile.

Because the mobile device arena has evolved so much, even within the last year, we expect that in 2013 we’ll continue to see devices change and proliferate at breakneck speed. The lines between devices are quickly blurring, particularly between laptops and tablets with the introduction of hybrids like ultrabooks and convertible tablets. In the near future, we think we’ll see all devices have capabilities like touchscreens and GPS, with lines between device form factors continuing to blur. As that happens, mobile search will need to get smarter to better understand user context beyond devices – such as whether someone on the go is looking for a nearby restaurant for lunch – so that we can deliver the best, most relevant ads. We think the industry will make big strides in the next few years to better understand user context based on signals such as location and time of day so that we can help advertisers reach the right person with the right message.

What’s your prediction for the most exciting development of 2013?

Mobile, mobile, mobile! For those marketers who have yet to fully dive into mobile, I would say that it’s not too late. Mobile search is becoming increasingly crucial to the way your customers interact with you, so the first thing I’d recommend is that marketers make sure they’re present on mobile search and provide customers with a good mobile experience with things like click-to-call and mobile-optimised websites. We also see the trend of watching video on mobile growing exponentially – so it’s important that desktop or laptop video experiences are adapted or created on mobile.

What piece of tech could you not leave the house without?

That has to be my Nexus phone of course!

Source: http://mea.broadbandworldforum.com/regional-manager-gulf-google/

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