South African company Platypus Digital has developed a digital content vending machine that allows for the distribution of free and paid for content. Known as OGLE, the digital download kiosks offer content such as music, movies, TV shows, documentaries, audio books and free educational content.
Customers can download content directly onto USB flash drives, mobile phones, tablets memory cards and any Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices.
“Because the digital content resides on the kiosk hard drives there is no data cost to download content,’ explains Platypus Digital MD Stanley Edwards. “We believe OGLE is great opportunity for local producers because they don’t have to go to the expense of manufacturing DVDs, distributing these or having their content sitting on shelves waiting to be sold.’
OGLE’s technical partner is Johannesburg-based Yeahpoint Africa. Edwards continues: “They have the necessary software that can load multiple applications onto a single kiosk. Their software management platform allows us to add new content and services quickly and remotely.’
The development of OGLE was prompted by Edwards’ desire to deliver content cheaply in today’s “content everywhere’ space. “In South Africa our challenges are access to broadband, speed of broadband and the prohibitively high cost of data. So the problem has always been how to access digital content as it’s a very expensive process.
“Two years ago I was looking for a solution where I could download and pay for content but without the data costs, so I went to a visit company in Shanghai owned by an American businessman who owns mobile retail stories. He has developed a kiosk solution in his shops and signed on content providers to offer full length movies for download on mobile for the same price as pirated movies. This company, Duoguo, also has a system for kiosks in malls run by entrepreneurs as a “business in a box’ operation. The key factor in such a venture is to secure digital distribution rights from content owners.’
Platypus Digital is working with a US company called Red Touch Media which has digital distribution rights to large amounts of content.
“In the OGLE strategy we also looked at education, where we could aggregate content from providers like Mindset and SABC Education and offer it for free. There are a lot of people who want to give away educational content but it’s too pricey for them to distribute. OGLE kiosks solve this problem. All of our kiosks are connected to a central server at Yeahpoint Africa’s offices in Fourways, Johannesburg and we update and populate every kiosk on site. Each kiosk will be different in terms of content.’
He notes that the challenge on the educational side is to find funding for the kiosks. Therefore the OGLE business plan includes a corporate social investment aspect to find donors for this purpose.
Kiosks with educational content will be placed at schools. These kiosks will also offer entertainment content for purchase as well as retail and payment services. Revenue is used to pay the kiosk off and once paid off, the initial investment is recycled to purchase kiosks for other schools and future revenue will go to the schools.
In September 2012 Edwards was invited to present OGLE at the Mobiles for Education Symposium in Washington.
“There is a huge drive to use technology for education and download material onto mobile phones, tablets and readers. We are talking to a company in Washington called Yazmi that is building a tablet with an inbuilt satellite receiver so content can download directly to that. Yazmi is targeting Africa in particular,’ comments Edwards.
Platypus Digital is working with an educational NGO in Cape Town called Edunova to roll out OGLE kiosks in 25 schools in the Western Cape in the first quarter of 2013.
In terms of the “business in a box’ model, entrepreneurs purchase a kiosk in the same way they would a franchise. “We would assist entrepreneurs to find funding,’ stresses Edwards. “Kiosks could be operated as a store within a store or as standalone ventures in townships. Because the kiosk is digital you can do anything with it, so customers will be able to buy airtime and pay their electricity and telephone bills as well.’
Regarding the OGLE payment system Edwards is working with EEC Worldwide, a local company that has developed a NFC payment solution and a mobile wallet linked to a cashback rewards incentive and loyalty programme.
Edwards notes that Platypus Digital has always been at the forefront of technology; it was the second company in Africa to do DVD authoring and the first to do augmented reality (for a Grant’s Whisky commercial).
screen africa magazine january 2013