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‘People first’ will win digital

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Leading companies that develop a people first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture.

As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

“In the Accenture Technology Vision 2016, we’ve identified five technology trends that are critical to digital success,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology officer. “Digital means people too and a cornerstone of this year’s Vision is people first. Companies that embrace digital can empower their workforce to continuously learn new skills to do more with technology and generate bigger and better business results.”

The five technology trends critical to digital success

In a companion survey of more than 3,100 business and IT executives worldwide, Accenture found that 33 percent of the global economy is already impacted by digital. Additionally, 86 percent of survey respondents anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase at a rapid or unprecedented rate over the next three years.

The Accenture report highlights how companies can often feel overwhelmed by the pace of technology change, experiencing “digital culture shock” at the prospect of keeping up with the competition. However, companies can adopt a people-first approach that will allow them to create new business models that drive digital disruption. One example is GE, which established a new approach called FastWorks that connected employees much more closely to customers and ultimately led to the rapid development of innovative solutions that sold well because they met and exceeded customer expectations. Additionally, Virgin America, the only airline based in Silicon Valley and the highest rated, has gone so far as to collaborate with its frequent flyers, returning customer loyalty with stock options before the company went public.

In the report, Accenture identifies five technology trends fueled by the people first principal that are essential to business success in the digital economy. The trends include:

1.     Intelligent automation. Leaders are embracing automation – powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality – to fundamentally change the way their business operates and drive a new, more productive relationship between people and machines. Significant investments are well underway with 70 percent of survey respondents acknowledging increased AI-related technology investments compared to two years ago, and 55 percent revealing that they plan on using machine learning and embedded AI solutions like IPsoft Amelia extensively.

2.     Liquid workforce. By exploiting technology to enable workforce transformation, leading companies will create highly adaptable and change-ready environments that are able to meet today’s dynamic digital demands. The competitive advantage offered by a liquid workforce is apparent as survey respondents indicated that “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was only the fifth-most-important characteristic they required for employees to perform well in a digital work environment. Other qualities such as ‘the ability to quickly learn’ or ‘the ability to shift gears’ were ranked higher.

3.     Platform economy. Industry leaders are unleashing the power of technology by developing platform-based business models to capture new growth opportunities, driving the most profound change in the global macroeconomic environment since the Industrial Revolution. This is reinforced by 81 percent of our survey respondents who agree that platform-based business models will become part of their organization’s core growth strategy within three years.

4.     Predictable disruption. Fast-emerging digital ecosystems are creating the foundation for the next wave of disruption by straddling markets and blurring industry boundaries; forward-thinking leaders can proactively predict these ecosystem trajectories to gain a competitive advantage. Companies are already significantly or moderately experiencing ecosystem disruption, with 81 percent of survey respondents indicating that they are seeing this in their industry.

5.     Digital Trust. Trust is a cornerstone of the digital economy, said 83 percent of survey respondents. To gain the trust of individuals, ecosystems and regulators in this new landscape, businesses must focus on digital ethics as a core strategy; better security alone won’t be enough.

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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