Disruptive technologies are changing lives and transforming markets and according to GYS KAPPERS, CEO of Wyzetalk, this brings two elements to the fore – that a company is not being made obsolete and that rather than seeing chaos, businesses see the opportunity.
The only constant is change and today this has never rung truer. We are in an age of change where disruptive technologies are not only changing lives, but transforming markets. Accordingly to Wyzetalk, two critical elements become important – that your company is not being made obsolete and that rather than seeing chaos, businesses see the opportunity.
“We are in an era of engagement and those technologies that enable collaboration, communication and connection also provide a platform that allows businesses to create,” says Gys Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk. “However many businesses are still beholden to traditional models driven by silos and hierarchies and as a result, are finding it difficult to truly capitalise on disruptive technology and the potential innovation that can be reaped from open collaboration and a culture of engagement.”
However, there are those businesses that have realised the potential of disruptive technology and ‘organised chaos’. In fact, according to Forrester, many organisations are making a fundamental bet on social business and collaboration to drive worker effectiveness (not only knowledge workers) as a competitive differentiator – stating that the next generation of market-leading organisations will digitise their enterprise model with new capabilities enabled by social technologies.
“Business as we know it has changed and continues to change, just more rapidly,” adds Kappers. “While business has always been about providing a service or product that a customer wants – today it’s about enabling them to consume it through their desired platform(s) – anytime, anywhere. In order to make this possible, business needs to truly listen to their customers, their wants and their needs and ultimately create not just a destination, but a portal for engagement with the brand.”
The role of mobile and technology even in Africa cannot be denied as it opens up enormous opportunities not only for increased productivity – but for broader engagement, collaboration and communication across all levels of the business not just externally, but internally as well.
“As businesses open up they need to be focused on not only creating communication channels for customers and external parties, but also internally for their staff,” adds Kappers. “In many respects, social media has created a culture of collaboration. People share information freely which often translates to a similar mindset in the workplace. This means that projects, in theory, should be able to get done faster as more people are working on the problem. Additionally, it helps organisations retain knowledge, drum up corporate spirit, get new employees up to speed, collaborate on business-purpose projects, foster innovation and improve customer service by creating highly engaged communities.”
“Businesses need to adapt. It’s as simple as that. They need to challenge paradigms and test hypothesis – looking to everyday challenges and experience and asking the question – how can this be improved or how can we make it better? Technology has been a catalyst in driving new behaviour and interconnectedness and has led to an awakening that helps us realise change is possible and that we can make it happen. Therefore, instead of viewing social networks and disruptive technology as a bad thing, organisations should harness the spirit of collaboration and ‘out of the box’ thinking and apply it into their own environment to truly reap the benefits,” concludes Kappers.
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
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.
Matrics must prepare for AI
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.