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Business divided on robot and artificial intelligence future

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Dell’s recent Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future survey surveyed nearly 4,000 business leaders across 17 countries including South Africa to find mixed forecasts on the changing relationship between humans and emerging technologies by 2030, and includes their top tips for transforming today.

We’re entering the next era of human-machine partnerships with a divided vision of the future, according to global research now available from Dell Technologies. Half of the 3,800 global business leaders surveyed forecast that automated systems will free up their time, while the other 50% believe otherwise. Similarly, 42% believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading tasks to machines, while 58% disagree.

The quantitative research conducted by Vanson Bourne follows Dell Technologies’ seminal story, “Realizing 2030: The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships.” That study forecasted that by 2030, emerging technologies will forge human partnerships with machines that are richer and more immersive than ever before, helping us surpass our limitations. Business leaders agree: 82% of respondents expect humans and machines will work as integrated teams within their organization inside of five years.

But leaders are also split by whether the future represents an opportunity or a threat, and torn by the need to mitigate these risks. For instance:

  • 48% say the more we depend upon technology, the more we’ll have to lose in the event of a cyber-attack; 52% aren’t concerned
  • 50% of business leaders are calling for clear protocols in the event that autonomous machines fail; other half abstained
  • 45% say computers will need to decipher between good and bad commands; 55% don’t see a need

“You can understand why the business community is so polarized,” comments Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer, Dell Technologies. “There tends to be two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of human obsolescence or the optimistic view that technology will solve our greatest social problems. These differing viewpoints could make it difficult for organizations to prepare for a future that’s in flux and would certainly hamper leaders’ efforts to push through necessary change.”

Given the promise of monumental change—fuelled by exponentially increasing data and the applications, processing power and connectivity to harness it—56% speculate that schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist. This thinking corroborates IFTF’s forecast that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.

Beset by barriers

Furthermore, many businesses aren’t moving fast enough, and going deep enough, to overcome common barriers to operating as a successful digital business. Only 27% of businesses believe they are leading the way, ingraining digital in all they do. Forty-two percent don’t know whether they’ll be able to compete over the next decade, and the majority (57%) of businesses are struggling to keep-up with the pace of change.

Main barriers to becoming a successful digital business in 2030 and beyond:

  1. Lack of a digital vision and strategy: 61%
  2. Lack of workforce readiness: 61%
  3. Technology constraints: 51%
  4. Time and money constraints: 37%
  5. Law and regulations: 20%

Unified by the need to transform

Leaders may be divided in their view of the future and facing barriers to change, but they’re united in the need to transform. In fact, the vast majority of businesses believe they’ll be well on their way to transforming within five years, despite the challenges they face.

Likely to achieve within five years:

  • Have effective cybersecurity defences in place: 94%
  • Deliver their product offering as a service: 90%
  • Complete their transition to a software-defined business: 89%
  • R&D will drive their organization forward: 85%
  • Delivering hyper-connected customer experiences with virtual reality (VR): 80%
  • Using AI to pre-empt customer demands: 81%

Burton adds, “We’re entering an era of monumental change. Although business leaders harbor contrasting views of the future, they share common ground on the need to transform. Based on the many conversations I have with customers, I believe we’re reaching a pivotal moment in time. Businesses can either grasp the mantle, transform their IT, workforce and security and play a defining role in the future or be left behind.”

Our Lives

Forecast Agree Disagree
Automated systems will free-up our time 50% 50%
People will take care of themselves better with healthcare tracking devices 46% 54%
People will absorb and manage information in completely different ways 54% 46%
Smart machines will work as admins in our lives – connecting our lives to highly personalized goods and services 43% 57%
It will be harder to disconnect from technology 42% 58%

 

Our Work

Forecast Agree Disagree
We’ll be more productive by collaborating more 49% 51%
We’ll have more job satisfaction by offloading the tasks that we don’t want to do to intelligent machines 42% 58%
Schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet 56% 44%
We’ll learn on the job with AR 46% 54%
Not sure what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry, let alone their employees 50% 50%

 

Business                                                                                                                                             

Forecast Agree Disagree
Clear protocols will be need to be established if autonomous machines fail 50% 50%
The more we depend upon technology, the more we’ll have to lose in the event of a cyber-attack 48% 52%
Computers will need to be able to decipher between good and bad commands 45% 55%
We’ll be part of a globally connected, remote workforce 49% 51%
Technology will connect the right person to the right task, at the right time 41% 59%

 

 

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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