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5 ways AI could change your business

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly finding a place at the heart of the enterprise, with it set to affect 25 percent of technology spend going forward, according to Accenture.  Enabling better-informed decisions by augmenting human intelligence with powerful computing and precise data analysis, and then automating the tasks that follow, AI and automation – like an AA battery – have the power to energise business and help them drive towards success.

Their rapid emergence has been driven by three factors. The cloud has made huge amounts of computing and processing power available, on demand.  The data deluge – where 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in just the last two years – has brought the critical mass needed to power the smart algorithms that drive these new capabilities.  New AI tools that can easily be integrated into a business as an engine for innovation, are helping organisations more easily adopt them and gain benefit.

With so many potential applications for AI, where should companies start, especially given Forrester’s caution that in 2018, 75% of AI projects will underwhelm because they fail to model operational considerations? Here are five key areas for consideration:

1.       Driving value from data: We live in a world where data is big and insight needs to be in real-time.  As data sets become larger, new, automated, AI-enabled tools will speed up the ability to find the needle in the haystack and then ensure appropriate action is taken. These tools will also have an incredibly powerful role to play in how data is managed. Taking on the tasks of running, patching and optimising databases and data warehouses, these new offerings will deliver unprecedented availability, performance, and security—at a significantly lower cost by eliminating the cost of human error stemming from manual processes.

2.       Rebalancing the cyber warfare: Another area where humans can’t keep up is around the rapidly expanding challenges inherent to enterprise cybersecurity. There are too many devices, too many applications, too many users, too many infringements and too many megabytes of log files for humans to make sense of it all, and then react in a timescale that would make a difference, in today’s world, that potentially could be milliseconds.  Businesses will need to rely on AI and automation to automate the detection, prevention and response to security breaches, performance anomalies, and vulnerabilities. Only by using machines to fight machines will companies be able to reprioritize and rethink about how they defend their information.

3.       The search for operational excellence: Businesses are under increasing pressure to reduce time-to market for new applications and services.  At the same time, they are overwhelmed by the distributed nature and volume of their operational systems, finding their siloed form hindering their ability to make good decisions, troubleshoot issues and drive cross business collaboration.  Cloud, while simplifying things in certain areas has added an extra dimension, making it increasingly difficult for IT teams to optimise enterprise systems and prevent catastrophic failures. AI can automate the many various monitoring and control requirements needed to keep enterprise systems running at their best, helping identify anomalies that human teams would have missed, enabling new levels of optimisation.

4.       Boosting business performance: Embedded AI capabilities within core business applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM), supply chain management (HCM), Sales and Marketing are helping make the decision-making process simpler and more efficient for business professionals across the organisation. In Finance this has the potential to improve activities like supplier negotiations, especially at times like end of quarter reporting when companies are also focused on optimising cash flow needs and balancing costs. In HR, recruiters would be better able to identify the best candidates in the shortest time. For Marketing professionals AI is already being used to help them run more personalised campaigns around next best offers.

5.       Creating conversation from chat – Finally, as shown by Bajaj, a good area to start with AI is chatbots, especially given the rising importance of the customer experience set to be a key competitive battle ground for 2018.   With new AI enabled platforms available that make it quick and easy to build and train Intelligent Bots without the need for specialist AI skills.

Without doubt, AI will be an increasingly important element of the business environment, and is not something that can be watched from the sidelines.  Given that the benefits of AI are really quite simple – speed from automation and the ability to make better decisions – if the guy in front makes a better decision than you and does it faster, you are going to be outraced.  You can’t afford to sit back and wait.

  • Niral Patel, Managing Director Oracle South Africa
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The future of the book… and of reading

Many fear that the days of the printed book are numbered. In truth, it is not so much the book that is evolving, but the very act of reading, argues ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Let’s talk about a revolutionary technology. One that has already changed the course of civilisation. It is also a dangerous technology, one that is spreading previously hidden knowledge among people who may misuse and abuse the technology in ways we cannot imagine.

Every one reading this is a link in a chain of this dangerous and subversive technology.

I’m talking, of course, about the printed book.

To understand how the book has changed society, though, we must also understand how the book has changed reading. That, in turn, will help us understand the future of the book.

Because the future of the book is in fact the future of reading.

Let’s go back to a time some may remember as their carefree youth. The year 400. 

(Go back in history with the links below.)

Next page:

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Wearables enter enterprise

Regardless of whether wearables lack the mobility or security capabilities to fully support the ways in which we now work – organisations remain keen and willing to unlock the potential such devices have, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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The idea of integrating wearable technology into enterprise IT infrastructure is one which, while being mooted for several years now, has yet to take-off in earnest. The reasons behind previous false dawns vary. However, what is evident is that – regardless of whether wearables to date have lacked the mobility or security capabilities to fully support the ways in which we now work – organisations remain keen and willing to unlock the potential such devices have. According to ABI Research, global wearable device shipments will reach 154 million by 2021 – a significant jump from approximately 34 million in 2016.

This projected increase demonstrates a confidence amongst CIOs which perhaps betrays the lack of success in the market to date, but at the same time reflects a ripening of conditions which could make 2018 the year in which wearables finally take off in the enterprise. A maturing IoT market, advances in the development of Augmented Reality (AR), and the impending arrival of 5G – which is estimated to have a subscription base of half a billion by 2022 – are contributing factors which will drive the capabilities of wearable devices.

Perhaps the most significant catalyst behind wearables is the rise of Edge Computing. As the IoT market continues to thrive, so too must IT managers be able to securely and efficiently address the vast amounts of data generated by it. Edge Computing helps organisations to resolve this challenge, while at the same time enabling new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence. Processing data at the edge reduces strain on the cloud so users can be more selective of the data they send to the network core. Such an approach also makes it easier for cyber-attacks to be identified at an early stage and restricted to a device at the edge. Data can then be scanned and encrypted before it is sent to the core.

As more and more wearable devices and applications are developed with business efficiency and enablement in mind, Edge Computing’s role will become increasingly valuable – helping organisations to achieve $2 trillion in extra benefits over the next five years, according to Equinix and IDC research.

Photo by Kathryn Bacher.

Where will wearables have an impact?

At the same time as these technological developments are aiding the rise of wearables, so too are CIOs across various sectors recognising how they can best use these devices to enhance mobile productivity within their organisation – another factor which is helping to solidify the market. In particular it is industries with a heavy reliance on frontline and field workers – such as logistics, manufacturing, warehousing and healthcare – which are adopting solutions like AR smart glasses. The use case for each is specific to the sector, or even the organisation itself, but this flexibility is often what makes such devices so appealing. While wearables for the more traditional office worker may offer a different but no more efficient way for workers to conduct every day tasks such as checking emails and answering phone calls, for frontline and field workers they are being tailored to meet their unique demands and enhance their ability to perform specific tasks.

Take for example boiler engineers conducting an annual service, who could potentially use AR smart glasses to overlay the schematics of the boiler to enable a hands-free view of service procedures – meaning that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert. Elsewhere, in the healthcare sector smart eyewear may support clinicians with hands-free identification of patient records, medical procedures and information on medicines and results.

Such examples demonstrate the immediate and diverse potential of wearables across different verticals. With enterprise IT infrastructure now in the position to embrace such technologies, it is this ability to deliver bespoke functionality to mobile workers which will be the catalyst for continued uptake throughout 2018 and beyond.

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