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2017 the year of reinvention

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It is well into 2017 and companies are coming up with trends that they forecast for the year. LEE NAIK, CEO of TransUnion Africa, discusses the tech trends that matter to local businesses.

It’s well into 2017 and you’ve been bombarded with more trends pieces than you know what to do with. From the many articles covering the CES and Davos to the analyses by the likes of Accenture, McKinsey, Deloitte and other major consultancies, there’s a lot to absorb.

I’d like to apply a more strategic viewpoint. Sound business decisions should not be made on a whim, adopted every time a new, innovative technology claims to be the future of enterprise. To make these decisions easier, I’ve closely researched the predictions of big analysts, cross-referenced it with TransUnion’s extensive bank of data, and put together a shortlist of the innovations that should be at the top of any South African executive’s priority list.

AI becomes part of our everyday lives

Artificial intelligence (AI) came of age in 2016 and will continue to steal the limelight this year. While you may not quite be able to visit an AI-powered theme park just yet, at least you’ll be able to order a pizza while you watch Westworld.

In 2017, Chatbots will dominate headlines, as companies like Starbucks and Domino’s roll out virtual baristas, with retail and banks leading the early adoption charge. Here at home, Mercedes Benz and Absa are just two of the companies that have already bought into this new technology. But before you go all in on chatbots for your organisation, just remember that the technology’s not quite yet at a level to deliver a seamless customer experience by itself.

Less discussed (though hugely significant) will be the enterprise and industry use of AI. Most common will be the use of messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams, incorporating some form of automation and chatbot functionality. And this is just the start: from reporting to research, the automation of knowledge work is already well under way. IBM’s Watson is streamlining cancer diagnosis and treatment, for example.

The Internet of Things comes home (but might bring a nasty surprise)

The advances in machine learning are set to have another big impact – on the mainstream realisation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the home. The likes of Alexa, Siri and other virtual assistants are nothing new, but we saw a record number of companies at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – from Ford to Whirlpool – bring out compatible products. Smart home devices have always lacked a single unifying platform, but the number of Alexa-compatible devices set to come out this year suggests we might soon have one. The competition is not too far behind either: Google Assistant is already arriving pre-installed on the Google Pixel, and Microsoft’s Cortana is expected to be included in a variety of gadgets released in 2017.

The flipside of the IoT coin will be the challenge of securing intelligent devices from opportunistic cybercriminals. From automation to as-a-service models, hackers have embraced digital innovation as eagerly, if not more so, as legitimate businesses. And the IoT revolution doesn’t just offer a whole new army of hackable devices, but connected business processes that can be exploited as well.

Gartner believes the need for an adaptive security architecture will arise in 2017. What that architecture might look like will be the question that preoccupies many enterprises this year, but it’s likely that it will be powered by machine learning, gathering actionable intelligence in real-time from a variety of sources and adapting as threats evolve. Think next-gen authentication platforms that can tell who you are, simply by analysing behaviour patterns.

Blurring the lines between digital and physical

The PlayStation VR may be the latest virtual reality headset to hit the market, and a sensation at technology trading shows, but experts agree that it’s augmented reality you should be keeping an eye on in 2017. If IDC’s prediction that 3 out of every 10 consumer Fortune 5000 companies will experiment with Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) is anything to go by, it’s clear the greatest innovation will be found at the juncture between physical and digital.

Companies will find new ways to use digital technologies to enhance real-world experiences. Take Carnival Cruises, which is rolling out the same technology behind Disney’s MagicBand onto its cruise liners. Or BMW, who’s partnered with Google to allow buyers to check out any of its cars, even if it isn’t in stock, using a virtual showroom. We’ll also see the rise of enterprise IT, as businesses explore using AR tech to boost operational efficiency. With manufacturers such as Lenovo starting to create devices aimed at the enterprise market, we’ll see more and more businesses make use of AR and VR for scenarios such as training and remote stock-taking, and general collaboration.

Betting money on Africa’s FinTech market

It’s important not to focus so much on the headline-grabbing tech – the darlings of CES and Davos – that we ignore the disruptions outside of the American and European bubbles. McKinsey & Company predicts that up to 3 billion people will connect to the digital world – a large portion of that from emerging markets.

With many in these markets still unbanked, a need has arrived for solutions that can turn them into fully digital consumers. As a result, we’re likely to see a convergence of FinTech aimed at financial inclusion and convenience that could allow emerging markets to leapfrog the West.

Keep an eye out for money transfer, POS, microfinance, and mobile payment services to emerge out of Africa this year. As for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the continent will prove a fertile testing ground for alternatives to paper money. This year sees Senegal launch its own digital currency, for example.

Stop thinking big data, start thinking smart data

For years now, businesses have been acquiring more data than they know what to do with. But even with considerable investments in analytics, companies are failing to realise the true value of their data. And a shortage of data science capabilities means businesses are seeking alternate means of securing and using information.

Cue the rise of systems and partners designed around smarter, value-driven data analytics. More and more, businesses will use platforms like Hadoop and Spark to work around their lack of data science expertise. Business Intelligence applications like Power BI and QuickSight should also gain in popularity. At the same time, we’ll see more resources spent on high-level data strategy, as businesses work out ways to use their information as the basis for new services, experiences and models. In 2017, we will see more businesses partner with specialist service providers and original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in order to accelerate the extraction of value from vast data sets.

The reinvention of corporate culture

With all these new game-changing technologies hitting us, never has the task of digitisation been more urgent. In 2017, businesses must continue to find new ways to challenge their current operational models, or run the risk of lagging behind.

There is, of course, the task of adapting to a service-based economy. Not only are we going to see businesses continue to redefine their existing models, but we’ll also see largescale changes to what we think of as corporate culture. From the gig economy and on-demand enterprise to process automation and as-a-service models, these changes will support more elastic, people-centric cultures. Whatever form these changes take, they will all be centred around one thing: unlocking human potential and creativity to be able to innovate and thrive.

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Projection tech transforms retail

By TIMOTHY WILSON, visual imaging business account manager at Epson South Africa

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Display designs, such as those found in retail stores, are no longer confined to static visuals on pull-up banners, 2D print and posters. The increasingly popular use of projection technology has ushered in new and exciting ways to create immersive displays using rich media and high-quality visual content to go beyond the four walls of traditional marketing.

In the past, projectors were lamp-based and prone to failure when used in a harsh environment, such as a retail store. Today, newly introduced laser projection technology has unlocked a range of capabilities.

Transforming the way brands engage with audiences

Creative techniques such as projection mapping, which can be described as the projection of video, animation and other colourful displays onto 3D surfaces, have completely transformed the way brands engage with audiences and can live in retail spaces, concert halls and even sports stadiums.

Projection mapping offers venues wide-spread creativity in using lighting in small or large environments, as was the case with Epson’s showstopping kinetic portal, which implemented projection mapping on a 360 degree vortex at the largest AV and systems integration show in the world – Integrated Systems Europe 2019. Driven by a new, affordable generation of projectors, mapping not only covers flat walls and traditional projections screens but also irregular shapes, objects, and even entire building façades.

When projecting on a larger scale, such as at events and music concerts, the process of visually combining several projectors to display one single seamless image might sound simple enough in principle but can prove to be a challenging task in reality. To overcome this challenge, experiential marketers are adopting the use of image edge blending, which refers to the process of stacking multiple projectors to create a single overlapped projection that appears continuous and clear.

It’s due to these advancements that displays in retail and events no longer pivot just on aesthetic appeal but can now deliver immersive consumer experiences that drive engagement and increase foot traffic. This is starting to drastically change the way that retailers, events and even restaurants host, engage, entertain and communicate with their audiences.

Projection is driving growth in experiential marketing

Consumer interest in the transition towards projection has seen this technology take centre stage at leading retailers such as Mall of Africa, events by brands such as ABSA and restaurants like Saint, transforming their environments into immersive spaces through projection that displays captivating imagery and video.

Saint restaurant in Sandton has pushed the boundaries of branding and displays, transforming all surfaces into a visual delight. Patrons entering the restaurant are greeted by a visual experience within a dome, featuring a series of moving, constantly changing artworks – such as a starry night sky or a replica of the Sistine Chapel – projected onto walls and the ceiling.

In fact, EventTrack research, which showcases the current state of marketing around the globe, highlights the continuous growth of event and experiential marketing. It notes that high-quality projection technology, more specifically its ability to emit stunning visual experiences, has grown in popularity to become the go-to tool for event organisers and retailers looking to captivate and engage with consumers.

The future of projection technology

Projection technology has proven to be an outstanding, much more cost-effective and reliable form of marketing collateral – setting an entirely new standard for high-resolution projection.

Sandton City recently embraced this market-leading technology with the installation of a virtual aquarium in its Centre Court. This installation centred on creating a 3D mapping concept that enabled shoppers to select an undersea creature from a touchpad to swim across digitised hoarding.

With capabilities to meet the demands of large-scale projection and the ability to effectively transform the way brands remain visible at shopping malls, restaurants and retail spaces – the unprecedented imaging power of projection technology has set a considerably high bar when it comes to retail and event displays. 

Epson, which is not only pioneering imaging technology and innovative projection solutions, is also the market leader when it comes to high lumen laser projection, having recently announced its 30,000 lumens laser projector (EB-L30000U) which will officially launch in 2020. This high-end installation laser projector, complete with 4K enhancement, is aimed at rental and staging companies, hospitality markets and visitor attractions, which is yet another progressive step towards transforming the way marketers engage with their consumers in the 21st century. 

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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