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What digitalisation will really do to business

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The fourth industrial revolution or the technology revolution has the potential to change just about every part of our lives. NIR TENZER of Microsoft says that embracing this change will present opportunities for business of now and those of the future.

Technology has become ubiquitous and central to growth and innovation in today’s business. It is embedded in a vast array of services and devices, and accessible to businesses to do what was previously impossible.

When we talk about this fourth industrial revolution, just like the first three with steam, electricity and information technology, it had a pretty broad impact in the way we live, the way we work, the way we entertain ourselves, the way we communicate.

And now, when we talk about this fourth industrial revolution with digital technology, we’re talking about it having perhaps even a broader, deeper impact on all those aspects of our lives. The way we engage is changing, the way we work is changing and the way we solve, address problems and innovate is changing – the pace of the change is also getting faster and faster. The world of the future is going to be different to the world we live today – there will be businesses and jobs that we cannot even conceptualise today. The change and the disruption will come from many directions, including Industry disruption and Technology disruption. Cloud, mobility, social and insight coming from data will contribute to this massive wave of disruption.

The tumultuous period of change for us in our businesses and how we navigate that presents much opportunity for the businesses of today and those of tomorrow.

Opportunity in transformation

As we embark into the depths of this fourth industrial revolution, we come to learn that every business is a technology company. Every company has the potential to transform itself into a digital business.

What is a digital business? It’s more than presenting a website or online service to customers, or simply using technology to run your business. According to leading technology analyst firm Gartner, “Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.”

Contextualising this, here are some examples of what companies are doing today to digitise:

·       Innovating with crowdsourcing and data—organisations are changing how they deliver new products and services by integrating customer, employee and general ecosystem feedback into their innovation process. In some cases, they are directly incorporating customers into the process. In others, they are collecting detailed data from the products they have in market in order to better understand usage and enable improvements. During the development process of Windows 10 for instance, Microsoft received millions of pieces of feedback from more than seven million fans who joined the insider programme, tested the software, and helped shape the finalised version of the operating system.

·       Working smarter with smart machines—increasingly, smart machines such as digital assistants (like Cortana) are empowering employees and consumers be more informed and productive in how they work and live.

·       Adapting the business through intelligent operations—enterprises today are connecting their operations and making them more agile and responsive to changing market conditions and customer needs. For example, a vehicle manufacturer can employ machine learning (quick data analysis) to identify and distinguish between model features that buyers actually need and nice-to-have features that they want based on customer demand, within various demographics across the globe. This will enable the car maker to cater to the needs of customers better with the right standard features everyone needs, while providing most of the cool features many people want as options.

·       Staying ahead by anticipating what’s next—machine learning and advanced analytics are enabling organisations to anticipate and predict customer needs and market changes better and faster, helping them be more competitive in the market and wow their customers.

·       Delighting customers with richer experiences—in order to deliver engaging customer experiences, businesses today are leveraging digital technology like interactive digital displays, second screen strategies, and mobile/local offers to enrich physical experiences with digital ones to help drive customer engagement and loyalty.

In order to successfully navigate the transformational wave, organisations need to form partnerships that will enable them to utilise systems of intelligence that will help them gain insight and take action from big data, optimise their operations and change the very nature of the business models around their industrial products.

Leaving a legacy of innovation, rather than a depending on legacy systems

Common stumbling blocks that prevent companies from effectively supporting business priorities through digital transformation include the burden of legacy systems. Enterprises and large corporations within sectors such as financial services and retail often find themselves being disrupted by smaller, more agile competitors such as SMEs and start-ups that are not burdened by legacy system that is very complex to manage.

As Microsoft, we are similarly impacted and disrupted and are experiencing our own digital transformation. We have adopted interconnected ambitions that represent more than our ambitions – they are our response to this imperative to transform and designed to help our customers deliver transformation within their organisation.

By adopting the mind-set of a digital company, any business can transform through the four pillars of digital transformation. The first of these is empowering your customers through tools like a customer management system and approaches such as driving viral find, try and buy opportunities that help cross-sell and up-sell, and build these capabilities into offerings. Next up, companies have to empower employees through knowledge and insight tools, enabling staff to access data and collaborate from anywhere, anytime, using any device or platform.

The penultimate pillar is optimising your operations, which is achieved by migrating services to the cloud and focussing automation. Last but not least is transforming your products, which is done by creating connected services and generating insights to see what can be monetised to unlock new business models. Previously businesses designed, built, produced and shipped a product, then customers bought it. That was the end of the cycle. Now organisations are building in continuous feedback loops – sensors in product, after-market services, and customer feedback from a variety of channels. Transformation requires these rich systems of intelligence. And it isn’t simply about technology…systems of intelligence represent the combination of technology, people and process that enable these feedback loops, and define an organisation’s competitiveness and ability to change the entire landscape of the industries in which it participates.

Moreover, organisations, will require a cultural change within the company that sees staff being more open to learning, using and integrating new systems, tools and solutions into their daily routines and processes.

* Nir Tenzer, Microsoft South Africa’s Marketing and Operations Director.

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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