Data has become the new business currency and companies have access to more data than ever before. But the business differentiator now is what they do with the information. This is where AI comes in says LIKUN ZHAO, GM, Huawei Consumer Business Group SA
A recent global study by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that more than 80% of organisations see artificial intelligence (AI) as a strategic opportunity for their business. The study surveyed companies from 21 industries in 112 countries, highlighting the fact that AI can serve multiple sectors, and is not just limited to a handful of business segments.
What is AI?
The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was actually coined way back in the 1950s, and since then its definition has broadened widely as technology becomes smarter, data becomes more prolific, and analytics become more nuanced. At its most basic level, AI refers to a system that is capable of learning from data. As more data is inputted, the system gets smarter and is able to take more action on its own, accomplishing what only humans could do previously, but in a much shorter timeframe and with increasing accuracy.
Data has become the new business currency, and, thanks to new technologies, companies have access to more data than ever before. But the business differentiator is not who has the most data but what they do with the information. And this is where AI comes in. AI essentially unlocks the power of data. Through the use of AI, systems can process massive amounts of data and transform this data into knowledge – knowledge about everything from customers and staff to procedures and time management.
Getting to know your customers
The better you know your consumers, the better you are able to give them more personalised brand experiences that will turn them into loyal customers. AI is an extremely useful tool to learn more about your clients’ preferences and buying habits. It is already being used extensively in ecommerce, where customers’ ‘Wish Lists’ and previous purchases can provide insight into their interests, likes and spending patterns. One of AI’s key benefits is that this data is available in real time, so online retailers can act on this information immediately. The insurance industry is also using AI to get to know its clients’ driving behaviour, which not only results in lower premiums for safe drivers, but also gives insurers more information about their clients that could be used for future company innovations that will address a glaring need they would otherwise not be aware of.
Optimising employee performance
Of course, your customers are not the only people important to your business. The advantages of AI are not solely externally focused but can also turn inward to put the spotlight on the individuals who make your business happen. AI can be used effectively in many HR processes, such as the hiring of new staff and performance reviews. In addition, it can assist in detecting potential staff issues, such as regular absenteeism, before they become problems, and even point to possible causes. AI is also an incredibly useful tool for compiling staff schedules and allocating resources on certain projects, in order to optimise productivity, augment outcomes and reduce costs.
Enhancing business operations
Whatever your business, AI can enhance how you run things. In manufacturing, for example, AI can be used to quickly resolve issues on the floor by accessing data on how similar problems were addressed in the past. In sales, cold calling can become a thing of the past as AI can help to generate more accurate leads. Delivery companies can use AI to manage and monitor their fleets, and more accurately assign tasks and achieve quicker deliveries. Across industries, AI can assist in driving down costs, optimising time management, compiling accurate reports and better serving customers. Real-time processing of data ensures businesses keep up to date with better information, better recommendations and more insightful predictive power, to optimise business decisions.
AI on your phone: the businessperson’s virtual assistant
Cellphones have been vital business tools for almost two decades now, and their importance has only accelerated as the idea of the flexible workforce starts to take shape. Smartphones are also becoming increasingly intelligent as AI is being integrated more and more into their systems and applications. However, AI has also been known to slow down phone performance considerably, drain battery life, as well as open users up to privacy problems – none of which are good for business.
As the first and only phone with on-device AI, the new Huawei Mate 10 Pro is able to address all these issues. Because the artificial intelligence is on the phone, all your information stays on the device, and you do not need a network to use traditionally data-draining apps. In addition, the Huawei Mate 10 is built to avoid battery waste, manage abnormal power consumption and maximise battery usage. This makes the phone an ideal business companion, as you will never be let down by a dying battery, even in the case of excessive usage.
Because it is an AI-enabled device, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is also able to learn your cellphone habits and preferences, so over time it can become more intuitive and give you a more personalised experience. This kind of intelligence goes well beyond what Siri and other voice-activated assistants can do.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is giving people a taste of what artificial intelligence can do for business, especially in terms of having a more customised consumer experience. AI is undeniably the future of business, and companies that use it wisely will have a definite competitive advantage, or risk getting left far behind.
Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist
Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.
The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.
“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time. We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”
The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba. It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.
Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.
“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”
This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.
Sports streaming takes off
Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.
England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.
According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.
Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.
The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.
“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”
With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.
“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”
The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.