With companies spending small fortunes on technologies like AI, big data, IoT and blockchain, the world as we know could change dramatically. Simon Carpenter, Chief Technology Advisor at SAP Africa, gives his predictions on how 2018 will shape the future.
A lot can happen in a year. And when that year is 2018, a year in which we stand on the threshold of an exponential future driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, IoT and blockchain, the world may look very different by the end of it than it does now.
It is often productive to take some time in the early part of a year to consider (and imagine) what the next 10-12 months will hold. At the very least it affords us an opportunity to dream big and consider the implications of new trends, products, and services, as well as their underlying technologies. At best, we gain invaluable insight into how these technology trends will affect, improve or disrupt our businesses, our work and our personal lives, and help us reach previously unattainable goals, progress, (and even distant planets!)
Here are my (and my colleagues’) top technology predictions for 2018:
- In aerospace, the commercial airplane industry will see cool, new products and innovations. We’ll see the first legitimate applications of large-scale autonomous air taxis and hypersonic aircraft. In space, the journey to Mars is closer than we think. Our own Head of Innovation, Adriana Marais, is even shortlisted to be one of the first humans to undertake a manned mission to the Red Planet. 2018 is set to re-ignite our imaginations around space travel.
- In the manufacturing arena we will see the use of 3D Printing (or additive manufacturing) and robotics accelerating as companies position themselves to be more responsive, less wasteful and more competitive in a global context.
- Across Africa we will see agricultural value chains embracing technology as both government and private sector organisations work towards food security for Africa’s exploding population in the face of climate change, water shortages and land degradation. Technologies will be used to help both small and large-scale farmers achieve better outcomes with less impact on the environment and less wastage in the supply chain
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning will become mainstream in business in 2018. You can break it down into three categories:
- Advanced analytics and big data plays, where the aggregation of data will enable fresh and deep insights and allow the creation of new business models,
- Business process automation, where we’ll see a high degree of back-end business processing being done by algorithms, freeing up human resources to be more productive and creative, and
- Customer experience, where we’ll see more intelligent and personalised layers between humans and systems, like voice navigation and human-like virtual assistants.
- Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, and blockchain will also enable new business models and create new markets driven by start-ups and agile corporates that can embrace these trends and understand the potential value propositions that can come out of it.
- On the workplace culture side, we’re going to see a significant refocus on cultural aspects of organisations, specifically how company culture and its practices support the needs and well-being of the organisation. Companies are realising that if they don’t have the culture and the practices to support a healthy, productive environment for their workers, they’re not going reach their goals.
- Design will assume a heightened eminence as companies, with equal and easy access to the latest technology platforms seek ways to establish a competitive edge in the way they apply technology to unforeseen problems and opportunities.
- One of the biggest stories in 2018 will be cybersecurity. The explosion in software, technology, and connected devices open many new threat vectors, at the same time that the regulatory environment is becoming significantly tougher. Security systems must keep pace in the same fashion. We desperately need to get those protocols and security measures in place.
- Today there is a “land grab” happening in the IoT space as vendors, large and small, jostle for leadership. SAP’s global IoT evangelist Tom Raftery predicts that the IoT cloud platform market is going to consolidate quickly. “The IoT hype is going to finish and we’re going to move into possibly a ‘trough of disillusionment’ – as Gartner calls it – that precedes mainstream adoption. IoT architecture will evolve from data ingestion and analytics (the “thing to dashboard” paradigm) to an intelligent event-driven solution for end users. Digital twins will evolve from concepts to implementation providing new simulation and decision-making capabilities within and across companies.”
- Cameron Beveridge, SAP’s local cloud lead, predicts that we’re going to see companies reassess their strategic technical plan – possibly even stopping some of the roadmaps and re-evaluating options for the cloud, as well as moving forward with ERP transformations and improving total cost of operations by streamlining business processes and technical architecture. “There will be quite a bit around end-to-end transformation and being more innovative and proactive in business processes.”
Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon
On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.
“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.
Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion. In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.
A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.
David Noton advises:
- Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky. Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.
- Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
- Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
- Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
- Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability. By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!
How Africa can embrace AI
Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.
To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.
These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.
Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed
AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.
According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.
It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.
Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.
It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.
Combining STEM with the arts
Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.
As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.
For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.
“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.
Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.
Revisiting laws and regulation
For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.
Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.
Preparing for the future
With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.
To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.
It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.