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What machine learning means for your business

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Many fear that machines will replace human jobs. But, KEITH FENNER, Vice-President Sage Enterprise Africa & Middle East, says that it can offer enormous benefits to businesses, and that now is the time to invest in it.

Machine learning, which used to be something only computer scientists in server rooms discussed, has become a hot topic, along with big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

Machines develop algorithms that allow them to make predictions, such as the shows you might want to watch on Showmax or Netflix, to use a simple example. Machines will also update their models as new data is received, without human intervention.

Advances in machine learning have caused many to fear that machines will replace human jobs. However, I’d like to argue that it can offer enormous benefits to business, and that now is the time to invest in it.

Machine learning is all around us

Retailers can already successfully predict the performance of retail promotions using advanced machine learning. This not only maximises ROI, but also streamlines the inventory ordering process. Machine learning algorithms also enable effortless personalised marketing.

The financial services sector uses machine learning to detect fraud and provide pre-approved loan offers, while Google uses it to run its driverless cars. Brands use it to get a sense of what’s being said about them on social media.

The age of machine learning is here. In fact, 40% of businesses surveyed by the Accenture Institute for High Performance in a 2016 study are already using it to improve sales and marketing performance.

What machine learning offers to Enterprise

Machine learning is proficient at handling analytical tasks within defined parameters. For example, companies use machine learning to track new leads, upsells, and sales cycle times.

Elliot Yama points out that there is huge opportunity in what he terms “Quote-to-Cash” solutions:

·         These encompass all the business processes involved in selling: from compiling initial offers right through to collecting payments.

·         Quote-to-Cash solutions connect many previously manual tasks and disjointed processes, automating and optimising them seamlessly.

·         They are now also helping to drive business outcomes across all sales channels and to optimise sales reps’ performance. For example, by improving quoting speed or the time it takes to generate a contract, machine learning can substantially improve salespeople’s chances of closing a deal.

But machine learning offers advantages beyond sales and marketing. It can be used to predict customer credit risk, to recognise text or speech (goodbye, painful data-capturing processes) and even to approve insurance claims quickly, without human intervention.

AI helps make work more meaningful

People will now have time to focus on other aspects of the business like driving innovation and exploring meaning. The beauty of machine learning is that it is able to do the work where humans can’t compete. A great example of machine learning at work is in the accounting industry.

AI can streamline accounting and compliance. It’s why we recently released Pegg, the world’s first accounting chatbot. Accounting is a perfect use case for automation, because it centres on repetitive, manual tasks. By using AI to automate it, businesses are able to focus more on core business activities and on the human elements of their business.

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Samsung unfolds the future

At the #Unpacked launch, Samsung delivered the world’s first foldable phone from a major brand. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried it out.

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Everything that could be known about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, launched on Wednesday in San Francisco, seems to have been known before the event.

Most predictions were spot-on, including those in Gadget (see our preview here), thanks to a series of leaks so large, they competed with the hole an iceberg made in the Titanic.

The big surprise was that there was a big surprise. While it was widely expected that Samsung would announce a foldable phone, few predicted what would emerge from that announcement. About the only thing that was guessed right was the name: Galaxy Fold.

The real surprise was the versatility of the foldable phone, and the fact that units were available at the launch. During the Johannesburg event, at which the San Francisco launch was streamed live, small groups of media took turns to enter a private Fold viewing area where photos were banned, personal phones had to be handed in, and the Fold could be tried out under close supervision.

The first impression is of a compact smartphone with a relatively small screen on the front – it measures 4.6-inches – and a second layer of phone at the back. With a click of a button, the phone folds out to reveal a 7.3-inch inside screen – the equivalent of a mini tablet.

The fold itself is based on a sophisticated hinge design that probably took more engineering than the foldable display. The result is a large screen with no visible seam.

The device introduces the concept of “app continuity”, which means an app can be opened on the front and, in mid-use, if the handset is folded open, continue on the inside from where the user left off on the front. The difference is that the app will the have far more space for viewing or other activity.

Click here to read about the app experience on the inside of the Fold.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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