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Smartphones soon obsolete?

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Ericsson’s latest annual trends report has shown that among other shifts, consumers believe that artificial intelligence will soon enable them to interact with smart devices without the need for a smartphone.

This year’s report shows consumers believe artificial intelligence (AI) will soon enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. In fact, half of all smartphone users expect smartphones to become things of the past within the next five years.

The report also shows that as the adoption of networked technologies moves faster than ever, mass-market use becomes the norm quicker. As a result, the time period when early adopters influence others is now shorter than before.

Michael Björn, Head of Research, Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: “Some of these trends may seem futuristic. But consumer interest in new interaction paradigms such as AI and virtual reality (VR), as well as in embedding the internet in the walls of homes or even in our bodies, is quite strong.

“This means we could soon see new consumer product categories appearing – and whole industries transforming – to accommodate this development.”

The insights in the “10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016” report come from Ericsson ConsumerLab’s global research program and cover a range of consumer opinions. The broadest trend is representative of 1.1 billion people across 24 countries, whereas the narrowest represents 46 million urban smartphone users in 10 major cities.

These are the 10 trends for 2016 and beyond:

1.     The Lifestyle Network Effect. Four out of five people now experience an effect where the benefits gained from online services increases as more people use them. Globally, one in three consumers already participates in various forms of the sharing economy.

2.     Streaming Natives. Teenagers watch more YouTube video content daily than other age groups. Forty-six percent of 16-19 year-olds spend an hour or more on YouTube every day.

3.     AI Ends The Screen Age. Artificial intelligence will enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. One in two smartphone users think smartphones will be a thing of the past within the next five years.

4.     Virtual Gets Real. Consumers want virtual technology for everyday activities such as watching sports and making video calls. Forty-four percent even want to print their own food.

5.     Sensing Homes. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners believe bricks used to build homes could include sensors that monitor mold, leakage and electricity issues within the next five years. As a result, the concept of smart homes may need to be rethought from the ground up.

6.     Smart Commuters. Commuters want to use their time meaningfully and not feel like passive objects in transit. Eighty-six percent would use personalized commuting services if they were available.

7.     Emergency Chat. Social networks may become the preferred way to contact emergency services. Six out of 10 consumers are also interested in a disaster information app.

8.     Internables. Internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. Eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.

9.     Everything Gets Hacked. Most smartphone users believe hacking and viruses will continue to be an issue. As a positive side-effect, one in five say they have greater trust in an organization that was hacked but then solved the problem.

10.  Netizen Journalists. Consumers share more information than ever and believe it increases their influence on society. More than a third believe blowing the whistle on a corrupt company online has greater impact than going to the police.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read on about Hastings’ views on international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement. To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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