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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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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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