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The shape of 2018

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The next wave of digital technologies like chatbots and augmented reality are on their way and the promise to change our lives as dramatically as the smartphone did, says ERNST WITTMANN, Regional Manager – Southern and East Africa at TCL

We’re seeing technologies such as chatbots, augmented reality and video that has transformed the way we use our mobile devices. Here are a few of the mobile and digital trends that are likely to unfold during 2018.

  1. Artificial Intelligence and chatbots

Artificial intelligence and chatbots will continue to mature next year, making it easier than ever for people to interact with technology and to carry out complex tasks. Powered by machine learning (computer systems that learn from experience without being programmed) and Artificial Intelligence, natural language processing allows us to speak or type to computers in our usual sentences, simplifying our interface with devices and apps.

Robo-advisors are already a hot trend in financial services—these are smart bots that give wealth management advice on a website or mobile app. Gartner forecasts that such chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020. Virtual assistants that live on your smartphone are also becoming increasingly popular. One example is Google Assistant, which lets you ask for directions to the nearest Chinese restaurant, send messages, check appointments, and so on, using your voice.

We’ll use voice recognition and chatbots for applications as diverse as seeking technical support for a new washing machine to making a mortgage application to seeking investment advice. And virtual assistants on mobile phones will become ever more powerful and allow us to automate more tasks. For example, what if Google Assistant could not only tell you where the Chinese restaurant is, but also make a booking for you?

  1. Augmented and virtual reality

IDC forecasts that global spending on augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) will nearly double from $9.1 billion in 2017 to $17.8 billion next year. AR/VR traffic on the Internet will increase 20-fold between 2016 and 2021, according to Cisco. Both technologies have been around in some form for several years, but companies have struggled to find practical uses for them.

When it comes to consumer VR, the technology remains expensive and gaming dominates the landscape. Consumers today need to buy expensive, dedicated hardware to get a true VR experience. Prices of this equipment are likely to fall in 2018, while smartphone VR headsets will also get cheaper and better.  Apps will become more diverse—we’ll see a healthy mix of educational, simulation, virtual tourism and entertainment applications come to market.

AR captures the world through a mobile device camera and puts a digital overlay on the video and image the user sees on the display. Applications are numerous—from seeing how furniture you’re browsing on a retailer’s website might look in your lounge to providing labels and information about the parts in your car when you’re trying to find out why it won’t start in the morning.

In 2018, the technology looks set to build on the popularity of crazes such as the Pokemon Go AR game a couple of years back, and AR lenses for Snapchat. Cool apps are starting to come to market—there’s a great AR feature in the Google Translate app that lets you point your camera at text in a foreign language (a street sign, for example) and view the translation on your display.

We can expect to see great strides in 2018, for applications ranging from marketing to corporate learning and training. Google’s ARCore tools for building AR apps for Android will help fuel growth—every Android smartphone beyond Nougat with a camera is essentially ready for advanced AR apps. ARCore is a platform that simplifies the development of augmented reality apps on Android. It uses:

·         Motion tracking to understand and track the phone’s position relative to the world.

·         Environmental understanding to detect the size and location of flat horizontal surfaces like the ground or a coffee table.

·         Light estimation allows the phone to estimate the environment’s current lighting conditions.

  1. The Internet of Things

Gartner estimates that there are more than 8.4 billion “Things” available on the internet today, up more than 30% from a year ago. Sensors and devices are taking over in smart homes, cities, offices, cars and factories, ranging from control instrumentation to streetlights to smoke detectors.  These devices can monitor themselves and the environment around them (temperature or GPS location, for example), and share this data with other devices and services.

They can use this data to automate actions—for example, a shelf sensor could request inventory when stock is running out—and provide humans with real-time data for better decision-making—for example, a shop floor manager can get info about machine uptime and potential maintenance issues in a factory. This enables companies to drive down operational costs and improve productivity.

  1. Visual search

This trend is closely related to the growing maturity of technologies such as image recognition. With visual search, you simply point your smartphone’s camera at a work of art, a building, a household appliance or even a part for your car. The visual search app will be able to identify the object, and possibly even direct you to sites where you can purchase it online if it’s for sale or find more information.

Google is currently trialling visual search in its Google Lens feature. Pinterest also has a similar feature called Pinterest Lens, and Amazon’s CamFind can helps shoppers locate a real-world item in Amazon’s inventory by snapping a photo.

  1. More and more video

People will increasingly watch more video content online—especially on their mobile devices—in the years to come. Cisco’s research indicates that IP video traffic will be 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021, partly driven by a doubling of video-on-demand traffic between 2016 and 2021. Live Internet video will enjoy especially strong growth, growing 15-fold from 2016 to 2021 and accounting for 13% of Internet video traffic by 2021.

Social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have all launched live streaming video, and adoption is rapidly growing among consumers and brands alike. People are beginning to share experiences such as concerts and holidays in real-time with their friends and families; companies are likely to use live video to supplement brand activations, for virtual launch parties and even candid behind-the-scenes looks at their offices and factories.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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