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Enter Watson’s Law …

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At last week’s IBM Think conference in Las Vegas, the company took Watson from tool to Law, writes TIANA CLINE.

From Moore’s Law in 1971 to Metcalfe’s Law in 1995 to … Watson’s Law in 2018? IBM is heralding a new digital age – with a bit of chutzpah – with the name of its artificial intelligence engine.

“It’s an exponential moment, when both business and technology architectures change at the same time. It has the potential to change everything,” said IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty at the IBM Think conference in Las Vegas last week.

IBM Watson integrates the entire spectrum of data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning to lay a foundation for open and adaptive AI. At IBM Think, the tech giant unveiled a number of new cloud technologies (private, public and on-premises), open AI opportunities for businesses, and the fully-customisable Watson Assistant that takes a new approach in the AI space by only talking to businesses.

IBM’s end goal with Watson is to build a data-driven culture for enterprises. It is asking: how can artificial intelligence (AI) be integrated into every profession or industry and industries to transform workflow? And how can one ensure that the data that is gathered will be secure and accessible, wherever it lives, and that data-driven insights can be turned into competitive advantage?

The contrast is with narrow AI, which is able to perform simple smartphone tasks like distinguishing the difference between a cat and a baby in a camera roll, using machine learning (ML). Watson has been ramped up substantially for broader, more in-depth AI, which encompasses the use of smart data patterns, and blockchain for exponential learning.

“Ultimately, we need to make data incredibly simple and accessible with no assembly required,” said Rob Thomas, general manager for IBM Analytics. “IBM Cloud Private for Data is the only platform in the enterprise with no assembly required. It’s Cloud Agile.”

IBM also unveiled two key partnerships with Apple at IBM Think: IBM Watson Services for Apple’s AI, Core ML, and IBM Cloud Developer Console for Apple.

IBM Watson Services for Core ML will allow companies to create AI-powered apps that securely connect to their enterprise data and can run offline and on cloud. The main differentiator is that the AI continuously learns, adapts and improves through each user interaction.

“All iOS developers can now build applications in devices that run Watson, even if they’re not connected,” said David Kenny, IBM’s senior vice president for IBM Watson and Cloud Platform.

“It’s about getting a better understand of what’s going on.”

The new IBM Cloud Developer Console for Apple provides key tools, like pre-configured starter kits, along with AI, data and mobile services for Apple’s coding language Swift. This enables developers to link to IBM Cloud to build easy-to-code apps that can be integrated with enterprise data and are quick to deploy.

“Watson can help you reimagine your workflows,” said Kenny. “There’s a lot of noise in the AI space, but somebody needed to help the enterprise with deep, vertical expertise. It’s about security, transparency and compliance and we wanted to make it easy for businesses to get started, so we packaged together Watson Assistant.”

Siri or Alexa? Djingo and Cortana? No matter what a company names its voice assistant, there’s a good chance it’s Watson underneath. Enter Watson Assistant: it can be embedded into anything and be used in industry-specific applications where businesses can also white-label the service. This means there is no official Watson Assistant wake-word, such as “Hey Siri”, nor plans for a Watson-branded device to be sold in the shops.

“We’re training Watson Assistant with data which really understands industries,” said Kenny. “We want to make it easier for every developer in the world who is building applications.”

Watson Assistant can be implemented across key industry sectors, from hospitality to banking data, insurance, agriculture and the automotive industry. The overarching idea is to combine AI, cloud and the Internet of Things to help businesses enhance their brand and customer experiences.

IBM Watson Assistant for Automotive, for example, is a digital assistant designed to help the automotive industry understand and interact with drivers and passengers.

In the agriculture space, IBM Watson IoT can analyse farm data like temperature, soil pH and other environmental factors to give farmers insights that can help them make better decisions – and harvest greater yields. On a global scale, Identity Guard is using IBM Watson to fight cyberbullying, using social media and smart AI monitoring tools. A collaboration between IBM Research and the University of Oxford has begun using machine intelligence to simulate and explore more effective malaria policy interventions.

As Watson Assistant develops a deeper understanding of the user, it will be able to include additional factors, such as their location and time of day. The difference between Watson Assistant and voice assistants is that learns through each interaction.

Watson, as an AI platform, can quickly build and deploy chatbots and virtual agents across a variety of channels, including mobile devices, messaging platforms, and even robots.

With Watson, IBM believes that companies won’t need to fight data, but rather use it to accelerate research and discovery, and enrich customer interactions. Adaptive AI isn’t just an advantage, was the underlying message at IBM Think, it’s essential.

 

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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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