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Take the road to digital

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To channel the flood of data generated by the Internet of Things, companies need to move away from standard software platforms and move over to flexible, multifunctional versions. In so doing, they are already taking the first step to a secure future in the volatile era of digitization, writes DR. WOLFRAM JOST, CTO Software AG.

Smartphones, apps, wearables—IT moved into the everyday lives of consumers long ago. As the Internet of Things (IoT) segment grows, smart refrigerators, self-driving cars and other networked smart items will also become part of daily life. The main thing that makes these devices unique is that they communicate with each other. This generates one thing above all else: data. IT experts predict that by the year 2020, around 50 billion networked machines and devices will generate a data volume of about 40,000 exabytes (1 exabyte is equal to circa 1 million terabytes)—more than five times the level in 2015. To channel this flood of data productively, companies need to strip off their stiff corset of standard software and use flexible, multifunctional platforms instead. In so doing, they are already taking the first step to a secure future in the volatile era of digitization.

Traditional ERP systems cannot provide the speed of process restructuring and innovation needed these days. Cloud computing and mobile applications have been highlighting the limits of the monolithic approach with intertwined software packages for some time now. Static, inflexible legacy programs make updates time-consuming and costly. Even the concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA), which accelerates processes with flexible middleware without completely replacing the old systems, proved to be a temporary solution. As data volumes continue to grow along with the number of (mobile) devices, agile jacks-of-all-trades such as enterprise apps are taking the place of standard applications. These programs allow companies to combine analytical functions and transactional capabilities to design flexible business process. At the same time, apps support smart decision-making and offer a link to social networks.

Entrepreneurial spirit in the digital transition

Social media and custom apps enable businesses to speak the customer’s language since their everyday lives were appified long ago. Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Zalando—behind all of these apps and business models stand companies that have left behind traditional processes in favor of being a digital business. In so doing, they have blurred the lines between the spheres of the digital and physical worlds.

Agility, scalability, speed and responsiveness are the attributes of the “digital business.” They generate dynamic business processes that serve the customer’s needs faster and better with the greater differentiation and customization. Only personalized offers that are available 24/7 will keep customers loyal in today’s excess supply of options. The competition isn’t snoozing through digitization, and competitors who handle it better are already heading to the starting blocks.

Achieving success through co-innovation

There are a few paths into the digital business world. For example, the change can start with designing business processes or analyzing customer data that a company has collected. Generally speaking, there is no clear sequence here: Companies provide the starting point with their IT and business activities—and the IT service provider stands by their side as a software expert.

First they collaborate to develop a digitization roadmap. This includes the company’s digital strategy, business objectives and models, as well as the appropriate strategy for apps, IoT and cloud computing. The digital capability map is based on this roadmap and provides an overview of the company’s future digital capabilities and its new IT structure. Based on experience, up to two months should be allotted for this discovery phase. Then the IT service provider trains the IT organization and different departments on how to use the new systems. Users learn in real-world examples how to integrate cloud systems and link them with the backend, among other things. The goal for users is to work as independently as possible under initial supervision on implementation, execution and controlling within the new business processes, learn from them and improve them through further innovation. Experienced service providers allocate around six months for such an innovation cycle.

User companies should concentrate on planning, realizing and later autonomously developing the minimum of innovation needed. However, neither side should lose sight of the roadmap and both need to ensure that they communicate the necessary knowledge in small steps so users are not overwhelmed, which could place the entire digitization process at risk. Moreover, these agile methods give the team a certain leeway to familiarize themselves with the digitization processes on their own. Shaping IT projects themselves will require some companies to rethink their approach.

A secure future thanks to digital business platforms

Digital business requires open, fast IT. Aside from the technology being used, whether and how quickly companies develop, implement and improve promising business ideas also plays a key role. Companies that unite all these factors are successful—whether as a digital player in the business world or in public administration. That and the opportunity to integrate all process controls in the backend are the advantages of the platform strategy.

A platform pursues a generic approach, so it gets by without business logic and offers functions for designing, controlling, managing and developing software. It is not about software packages, but rather about flexible, changeable, individual applications that are customized for specific needs. These include cloud-capable services, in-memory databases, and CEP, integration and process engines.

Digital business platforms unite these and other functions in modular core components that can be implemented and expanded individually, but can also be built on each other and interlock like teeth on gears. These building blocks can be assigned different levels, such as data management and analysis, integration, modeling or process and program logic. This offers a structure that allows companies to remain competitive while focusing immediately on known weak points and expanding the platform incrementally over the medium term. The situation in the digital market is constantly in flux and innovations that will revolutionize processes are increasingly difficult to predict. Monolithic ERP systems are obsolete. Only digital platforms allow the greatest possible flexibility and reaction time to be prepared for all eventualities of the race of digitization speeding ahead.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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