UJAJA WIRELESS TRACKING SERVICES

I hate Mondays; in fact I have come to loath every thing associated with this day. It’s the day that the football review is done and for a while now I hated my coach. Its also the day that I have find a way to repay that loaner from dude friend when an old flame spotted me while I was crossing Kimathi street to my watering hole.
My budget was set, one beer for me and me and me and may be mmmm me again there was no her so I called dude.
Anyway on this Monday I had no debts to pay (very surprising) but I had this breakfast launch thing on my favourite subject gadgets.

The New Stanley hotel on the intersection of Kenyatta Avenue and Kimathi Street was the venue and it was short hop to the place. The breakfast was good period.
What was better was the product launch. A new service for the East African people that will help them keep tabs and definitely track their mobile devices such as laptops and mobile phones.
Known as Ujaja – (which means being clever), the service uses a software which (they do not want to say yet) uses the GSM network and the triangulation features to easily track a lost device.

This is how its works according to the providers; when you phone is stole the guy will remove your SIM card. When he sells your stolen phone, the new user will insert his new SIM card. This activates the a signal that sends a text message to your two preferred numbers (when buying the software, you will have to give the service providers two numbers that will be informed when your phone is stolen)

The text message will rely the new numbers and other SIM card details, later its hoped that when the provider teams up with the mobile networks you shall be able to actually position the phone to about 3 metres.

Where as the mobile phone uses the GSM network, the laptop tracking service deploys the use of URL or IP addresses. When the laptop goes missing, the guy will likely go to the net. As a result a new private address will be sent to Ujaja network telling them of the place and likely position of the laptop.

The funny thing is that East African Data Handlers Ltd are in the business of data recovery and the tracking of devices may have come out as an accident as did to Professor Utonium with the Power Puff girls.

Anyway the service is already in 50 others countries and Kenya and the region will definitely add to this number. For more information visit http://www.ujanja.co.ke

The mobile solution retails at 2k or about $27 yearly while the laptop solution retails at 7.5k or just under $100.

Me like it and say Mr. Njoroge you made my Monday much better.

FARMERS GO E!

It’s always interesting to watch someone use some technology for the very first time. It may be the use of a simple cooker that can easily harness the rays of the sun or sophisticated vehicle that can transform itself into a robot (touché).

 

What is always amazing is the adoption of the technology. Whereas the creator may have envisaged a totally different use, the consumer turns it around.

 

When you can take a walk into the narrow streets and path ways of Kibera (a slum in Nairobi); here you will see very many clear plastic bottles of water on the roofs of many houses. Why you may ask what is the story here.

 

Its simple the plastic bottles which used to contain mineral water and other beverage, are being used as water purifying tools. After the water has been boiled the water is put into the clear bottles and the ultraviolet rays cleans or purifies the water.

 

So Avian your bottles are being reused before the recycling part comes in. someone read about the use of ultraviolet rays and thought well what if. The health ministry now says incidences of water borne diseases are down 53%. A simple idea does go a long way.

 

And it’s that simple thought that drove some clever Kenyans to develop an interesting programme to help dairy farmers in the region.

 

Agritrace a non-governmental organization in Nairobi has set out with the help of Land-o-lakes and UsAid to automate all the dairy cooperative centres. You may ask why this is important well this is why.

 

The Dairy Board of Kenya has done a magnificent job to turn around the dairy sector. The sector is doing so well that it has made a good number of the farmers become big players in the Nairobi Stock Exchange. However they still say that inefficiencies still grapple the sector. For instance most nearly all milk collection points collate and keep data manually. Mistakes are rampant and here comes the Achilles heels: since every thing is done manually, when a farmer brings bad milk and is put into milk distribution chain, tracing the farmer and rectifying the problem becomes an odious or near impossible task. So what does the dairy board do looking for a simple tracing programme?

 

Agritrace comes in and introduces a smart card for any farmer that delivers milk to a milk centre. The smart card technology has been there for a while and getting the farmers abandon their passbooks was easy.

 

With the smart card, every delivery is automatically entered into the central database. As a result the dairy board can easily track the quality and quantity of milk in every region in the country. Now that the farmers are in a database their quality determines the price and also if a buyer has specific requirements they can just go to the farmer and get a business deal.

 

For the farmer the benefits are many; first when quality of the milk goes they can be alerted in hours and the problem solved within a day. Secondly when payments are done the smartcard alert the farmers by sending a short message to their mobile phones.

 

Since payments has always been a borne with the farmers, money can be accessed from any point of sale such as the ATM, Mobile money transfers and debited directly into one’s account.

Some farmers have even instructed their banks to have a facility that pays school fees straight from the smart card.

All they do is present their cards at the school and the rest is history.

 

For me it was interesting to see an old lady present her smart card at a milk delivery centre and remind the centre’s accountant that she did receive her SMS yesterday after her afternoon nap.

THE HOLIDAY CALLS

This was a good weekend I must say. First it had four days away from the office (you can sense my displeasure of the place).

 I have to be there to earn my two dollar a day pay. (That is what we say when your pay is bad). Anyway on Good Friday I decided to spend the evening with my good old friend Tim. Have known him for over two decades now and he is a chatter box. So imagine his father.

Well Tim’s dad called when we were deep in conversation over a pint. And Tim oh good Tim decided to put his phone on speaker mode.

And this is part of the conversation.

Dad – Hallo, hallo Tim hallo… whats wrong with this boy.

Tim – Hi Dad am hear Sema (what’s up in Kiswahili)

Dad – What did I tell you about picking your phone?

Tim – ah ….

 Dad – ah what …any way where are you?

Tim – I am in town with my friends

Dad – town which town?

Tim – Nairobi

Dad- oh ok… am in Kitale (about 300kms from Nairobi) am with my boys…Remember Mr Onyango your class three teacher he is hear. He got a big bonus from his sugar and he is buying…ha ha ha …Onyango say hallo to my boy Tim he is in Nairobi

There is some commotion as the phone falls down….

Dad – Oh son he is indisposed hahaha….. Anyway your mother said I call you

Tim – what about?

Dad – I don’t know she said I just called you so I called… so you are ok …ok Happy Easter….

That was Tim’s father he called and Tim got his mother’s greetings.

Well if you think that was a funny one; spare a thought for the Austrian mother who was sued by his son for calling him. According to the story the old lady had been (according to the son) constantly calling him to know how he was doing.

Check the story out in the odd news section of Yahoo news.

But that is not all apparently there is a petition in New Delhi India doing the rounds. The petitioners basically want the Indian government to come up with a law that prohibits bad use of the mobile phone.

Bad use includes, talking loudly on you device, picking the phone in funerals and at religious events. The law will also check on ‘offensive’ ring tones.

Well guys there is a feature called vibrate only or silent mode. You could use it in such situations. And as for the Austrian octogenarian POLE.

LIPUA AND REWARDZ TIME

Its Easter season and the cities of East Africa are experiencing the usual exodus. It’s a pilgrimage that many folks in the region tend to. The roads are filled by scores of people who are traveling up country or their rural homes for some time out from the fast pace of the city life.

For those who the city is their home, a holiday at the coast or our many national parks is the ideal plan.

Various companies in the region get to the same routine and offers are galore. You see to many guys that I know; this is the time to take stock on whether there are on course or off.

As for the many service companies a sale or nice package can make for a good book keeping entry.

If you wake up (that is if you are sleeping beauty) in Nairobi a week or two just before Easter this is what you should expect.

  1. The ending of the hotels and holidays expo usually at the Sarit Centre. If you are thinking of a holiday get away and you do not want to make that call to the travel agent, this is a good place to visit. Most players are here hawking their products.
  2. If you are thinking of buying a house or getting that ‘good’ mortgage than the last week before Easter is when they come out of their glass and marble building to sell you that house no one has seen before or that new paint that well works well for you…
  3. And then there is the Kenya Safari Rally where the machines meet the toughest roads in the world – that’s what they say… am yet to learn how to drive a car; do not ask but I car move a vehicle. Most Kenyans can move their cars period.
  4. And finally like a well oiled machine or an orchestra, the mobile companies all launch competitions for their customers. The word that is never omitted from their press statements is LOYALTY

 

So Safaricom and Zain did launch their loyalty programmes to reward the consumers that use a lot of their products (it’s been 8 years am yet to win something).

 

Safaricom is spending close to a million dollars on its programme. And it looks like guy are frantically trying to get some of it. Its simple send an SMS with the word LIPUA and you get a chance to win a million Kenyan shillings daily. A couple of guys have won some Dow. I saw their picture holding their cheques and it’s was good for them (I hate them when will it be me). It runs for sixty days and their should be some 60 millionaires as they say. MJ am you friend toss a brother a bone I need the money.

 

Zain on the other hand have something called REWARDZ where its customers will have to accumulate points for every 10 shillings they spend in its many services. You could be the bronze dude or the silver girl but the ultimate level is the gold. Zain is spending 95 million shillings on it so you count the odds. Am still on bronze getting to silver very soon so Rene I could be your friend if you want.

 

Well its rewardz and lipua time and maybe I could get a break since I still call my ex at 3 in the morning telling her that she is still the one. Add our peculiar calling habit. I think I have a shot.

    

ZAP,MPESA NOW NFC PAYMENTS

Trust Kenyans to change invent new ways of using stuff. Eunice my local grocer has just put up a new notice just at the door of her shop. For a while now she has been having a re-stocking problem due to the many unpaid bills that her close clients have accumulated.

 

So to avert a sudden closure of her business she has decided to turn to ICT for help.

All her clients have a mobile phone and most probably a mobile money transfer from Zain (ZAP) or Safaricom (M-PESA). So all she wants is to alert her customers that now payment can be done by either service.

 

So she called me to edit her new notice that was well written in caps and on an A4 white paper.

As I looked at it a few customers passed by and made good observation.

‘That is a good idea it will not feel like raiding the wallet soon we will not have to carry our wallets and stuff all information will be in these mobile devices’. Said one of them.

 

And that’s true a lot of interesting stuff is happening in this field especially with the SUV not the vehicles but the Stocked Up Value service that is being used in the Far East.

Since now banks offer mobile banking it becomes inevitable that the mobile device will soon be carrying some money which will allow you to pay for essentials or incidentals.

 

Even for Central banks, when more business and transactions are done by the mobile devices then the requirement of printing more paper money is reduced.

 

Also for the banks, the cumulative growth of credit or debit cards has been good but the uptake of the mobile money transfer has been impressive. Remember African consumers have a love hate relation with banks, but when they go to buy their devices, the ownership aspect comes in and if it can transfer money that’s a sale.

 

With many establishments accepting mobile money payments then the initial fear aspect have been removed. What needs to be done is for the mobile manufacturers to come up with devices that require only one touch (off course that is after security checks) the transfer of a Stock Up Value to a Point of Sale.

 

By using the much touted NFC Near Field Communication; a wireless communication technology over short distances.

Since it uses little energy to transfer small amounts of data that may be required for let say payments for a bus tickets or a few groceries, it can be cheap way to conduct business.

A device that supports NFC can work in active or passive mode. What is interesting is that when it is in passive mode no energy is used when reading out data that is stored therefore meaning it can work when switched off. That is why VISA is mouthwatering when thinking of the possibilities in smartcard application.

 

As for which mobile companies that are investing in this includes SonyEricson, Sony, LG and Nokia.

So folks in just 15 to 18 months when all tests are done, expect to be pointing you device to a receivers and paying for a service.

 

As for Eunice for some reason she started receiving text messages informing her that she has received some money through ZAP or MPESA. Now what she is hoping was that phone had NFC. She would just point at the products and not have to carry a wad of bank notes.

 

 

 

*131# AND SAFARICOM

I remember some years ago while I was in primary school, the Daily Nation newspaper (I do not remember which year) had a story about how Kenya became the first country in Africa to put a person on the moon.

I was very elated and the emotions were overwhelming. Little did I know that the story was an April Fools news story.

Well I heard the same feelings this year and I had to make sure that it was no April fools day prank.

I decided to dial *131# and see what the think tanks of Safaricom had come up with. And it was no April fools day gimmick I received kshs 50 airtime on credit which I had in 72 hours as per the service. Also if you do not pay with the said time you can not use the service for a month.

The service known as OKOA JAHAZI (which means Save The Situation)uses the premise that you are stuck somewhere that has know shop that sells scratch cards, and since it’s an emergency (like the other day my cubicle had ran out of toilet paper…I had to wait for a while and dash into next cubicle) so if I had the service I would just dial *131# and get air time and send a toilet paper SOS.

Mmmm I like the service and apart from making air time available at anytime anywhere, the service is also a genius plot by them crafty guys of Safaricom.

When you have over 9 million customers, as Michael Joseph has; I would like to see least over 75% of these customers to constantly use all or part of the Safaricom array of services.

Therefore what the company is doing is to increase the ARPU by encouraging the customers to constantly have airtime which has to be used within three days.

With our peculiar calling habits the 50 bob will last 3 minutes since you can not have had 50 bob airtime and called half of your relatives. S

o what do you do, place the carrot in front and the guy will chase it. Soon people will be asking why such a small denomination and MJ will be saying bingo!

To the 15 million mobile users in Kenya and EA region, expect more innovative and exciting products from all the Mobile networks in the country.

To Safaricom Kudos and wait ….. I have to OKOA my thirst. I wonder if our breweries could come up with some product that you could get one a pay later. Just a thought