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A new era for native mobile development?

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Over the last few years, new languages have been introduced for both iOS and Android that could see the start of a new era in native mobile development – one where teams can collaborate more and may even be able to work on both systems.

Until very recently, developing native mobile applications meant having an iOS team who coded in Objective C and an Android team who developed in Java. Stark differences between the two ecosystems and the languages themselves meant there were few developers who were experts on both platforms. As a result, development for each system often occurred in relative isolation.

Swift

Apple introduced Swift, initially as a proprietary language and a predecessor to Objective C, for developing iOS and OS X apps in 2014. Despite the fact that it was a radical improvement to the rather old Objective C, uptake for Swift was initially slow. Lack of backwards compatibility between each release did not help developers migrate their projects with confidence.

With the release of Swift 2, and taking Swift open source, the floodgates for adoption have been opened – in January 2016, Swift overtook Objective C in the TIOBE index. Unfortunately, the release of Swift 3 did not include a stable Application Binary Interface (ABI) and so we will probably need to wait for Swift 4 before developers consider this a safe language to invest in.

Kotlin

Kotlin has been developed by the JetBrains team who produce Android Studio – the official IDE for Android development. It has been around since 2011 but the first stable release was made in February 2016. It is a JVM language, which means it compiles down to Java byte code.

It represents a step forwards from Java but has been designed to be fully interoperable with Java, even to the point where a lot of the syntax should be easily recognisable to Java developers.

While Kotlin has not been announced as Google’s chosen replacement for Java on the Android platform just yet, the support for the language via Android Studio has helped drive adoption.

Both Swift and Kotlin are seen as modern programming languages. When compared to their respective predecessors, they bring a host of features and structures that the old languages do not support.

At a high level, it can be argued that both of the new languages are:

  • Easier to read
  • Easier to maintain
  • Less verbose
  • Have improved safety – thanks to strict strongly typed systems, which include nullability
  • Have a more modern syntax

Both languages have powerful features like extensions and immutability and they support functional as well as procedural programming paradigms, allowing developers to use new patterns in their designs.

Similarities

An interesting aspect of these languages is their similarity. In fact, the syntax is so similar, it can be tricky to distinguish them. This provides opportunities for development teams. The ability to more easily share designs between the platforms have mixed peer reviews where Android and iOS devs review each other’s code and potentially share common libraries would change the landscape for mobile developers.

While I don’t see the system specialists disappearing anytime soon, there is the very real prospect of support teams working on both platforms and even building development teams with central mixed discipline developers supported by systems experts. At the very least, the syntactical similarity means that cross training from one platform to another should be a simpler job in the future – anyone who has tried to persuade a Java developer to take up Objective C will appreciate this!

Balance to tip more in favour of native development

These developments may also have a bearing on the ‘native vs hybrid’ conversation that occurs periodically in nearly every mobile team. With little overhead of switching between systems, shared code and easier support, I’d expect the balance to tip even more in favour of native development.

Systems like Xamerin, React Native and Cordova may in time feel the pinch from these new languages.

A further advantage of these new languages is the way they are being adopted as server side languages. IBM is using Swift for developers to write server side applications and Spring has announced that Spring Framework 5.0 will have dedicated Kotlin support. In one of our existing teams, where the mobile team is also responsible for writing service layer code, this possible alignment of languages across the systems is an exciting prospect.

While it’s unlikely that we’ll reach the point of just using one of these languages to code for both mobile platforms anytime soon, their similarity, and the fact that their adoption is moving outside of just the mobile arena, will impact our mobile teams.

More robust products built from closer developer collaboration, consolidated and streamlined support teams, and the ability to keep developers engaged by allowing them to more easily work as full stack developers, are some of the ways future mobile teams will be different from those of today.

Source:bizcommunity

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Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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