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Contact centre reinvented in cloud

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The Interactive Intelligence Group has announced its PureCloud Engage customer engagement cloud service which is designed to offer contact centres an accelerated business impact with more consistent outcomes.

Interactive Intelligence Group has launched a new customer engagement cloud service in South Africa.

The PureCloud Engage architecture, along with its advanced functionality, fast deployment, and simple month-to-month subscription, offers contact centres accelerated business impact, more consistent outcomes, and the most innovative customer and agent experience.

“While cloud solutions have matured quickly, many organisations are still concerned about security,” said World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck at the launch. “It’s important to understand that cloud architectures differ quite a bit, and these differences have important security implications. As organisations evaluate their cloud options, they should assess a vendor’s security certifications, access management controls, encryption, and intrusion testing protocols.

“With careful assessment, organisations will find that in many instances modern cloud solutions are more secure than on-premises solutions. Combined with month-to-month subscription terms, these cloud solutions can give organisations an incredibly flexible, low-risk, high-value option.”

PureCloud Engage was built from the inside out with stringent security requirements in mind. It also addresses contact centre pain points such as high costs, lack of scalability, and difficulty managing geographically dispersed remote sites, according to Interactive Intelligence Managing Director, Africa Region Andre le Roux.

“Local contact centres increasingly need to roll out faster, scale up or down for campaigns without unnecessary expense, and focus their resources and budget more on staff and customer experience rather than infrastructure,” said Le Roux. “The unique PureCloud Engage architecture reduces start-up time to a matter of days, simplifies the management of workpools in different locations, and offers maximum reliability and scalability within a pay-as-you-go monthly subscription model.”

With customer expectations changing dramatically, South African contact centres are challenged to deliver always-on access across multiple channels, as well as ensuring that agents are empowered to assure true first call resolution. Interactive Intelligence designed PureCloud Engage to also address these issues, said Le Roux.

“PureCloud Engage continuously delivers the most innovative and comprehensive omnichannel features, which reduces the cost and complexity of upgrades, eliminates downtime for maintenance, and improves both the agent and customer experience,” he said. “Its advanced analytics also take full advantage of the virtually limitless data storage capacity of the cloud so agents have immediate access to all relevant customer information. This empowers them to give personal and even proactive service, which significantly improves the customer experience.”

PureCloud Engage is designed as a set of stateless, independently load-balanced micro-services running atop the scalable Amazon Web Services Cloud. This architecture was designed to achieve new levels of reliability, security and scalability. It also gives businesses immediate and continuous delivery of the most innovative applications.

PureCloud Engage features the industry’s most comprehensive feature-set, including omni-channel routing, speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR), call recording, quality management and reporting, outbound and predictive dialing, CRM integrations, and graphical scripting. It also includes business communications and collaboration features, such as IP PBX capabilities, video conferencing, corporate directory, chat, desktop sharing, and content management.

PureCloud Engage is offered directly through the Interactive Intelligence sales force as well as through the company’s channel comprised of approximately 400 partners worldwide.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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