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
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.