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End of on-premise: Call centre trends for 2018

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JED HEWSON, co-founder and joint CEO of 1Stream, explores the major contact centre technology trends that emerged last year including fibre, AI and chatbots,

At the end of any year, it is wise to look forward to the year ahead, and to use the knowledge gleaned from the previous year to predict some of the business trends and influences that will impact on the economy.

1.       Fibre

South Africans are finally having fibre delivered to them. With the rollout of fibre across the country, the full potential of cloud technology and connectivity can permeate our lives: both in the home and at work. 2017 showcased a fundamental shift in the cloud marketplace thanks to the accessibility of fibre and the potential it unlocks for the enterprise.

2.       SD-WAN

SD-WAN is the next layer of fibre ubiquity that allows the business to free itself from the complexities of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). It is agile, introduces an additional layer of security and high availability on the router, is link agnostic, and allows the user to configure and manage systems rather than hire specialist engineers. SD-WAN is, quite simply, a better way to use fibre.

3.       Artificial intelligence and chatbots

2017 taught us is that there are number of players in  the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot arena. Until now, connectivity limitations and infrastructure in South Africa have slowed its uptake, but it seems very likely that these services will soon be far more accessible.

4.       Integration

In the past, integration in the call centre meant lengthy and expensive projects to connect on-site proprietary systems and usually needed the involvement of highly specialised developers. The cost and effort to implement and maintain integrations made the business case for smaller call centres hard to justify. As modern cloud technologies are designed for remote connection and generally offer “open-Standard” APIs such as Web Services, integration today is faster and less expensive to deploy.

With the rise of cloud-based integration systems, 2017 saw a resurgence of  integration in contact centres of all sizes. These systems are designed to use agile methodologies, open and industry standards, with remote connectivity. The integrations of the past year have been more flexible and efficient, faster, cheaper, and designed with more modern technology in mind.

5.       The omnichannel

As the call centre adopts an increasing array of channels through which to communicate and collaborate with customers and employees, it is also adopting an increasingly complicated ecosystem that demands improved management accessibility and capability. In 2017, the omnichannel demonstrated both its relevance and its high maintenance. There is a growing number of companies looking for solutions that can streamline all these channels with central reporting and real-time data functionality.

6.       The hypercloud

The big four hyperclouds are here at last. Amazon, Azure, IBM and Google are coming to Africa, and with them brings a bevy of services that will see competition for cloud dominance hit an all-time African high. In the past, cloud offerings were limited as the hypercloud leaders were unavailable and the cost and complexities involved in bringing tools to Africa were prohibitive. Now, however, this is all about to change, and the next step is anyone’s guess.

7.       The end of on-premise

This past year has shown how businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to justify on-premise solutions. This is being further influenced by shadow cloud or stealth-cloud, where employees and individuals are introducing their own cloud solutions and IT environments, without the influence of IT. This trend was firmly entrenched throughout 2017 and triggered the corporate understanding that they will have to move off-premise at some point. However, in order to proceed, they will need a clear strategy to define how they manage their providers within their infrastructure.

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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