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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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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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