TIM WALTER, general manager for products and marketing at Nashua Mobile says this year will be an exciting year for the telecommunications industry as a host of new products from the world’s handset and computer manufacturers hit the South Africa market. Things will get even more exciting as competition among the country’s service providers and operators heats up.
Here are a few trends we’re expecting to see shape the South African telecommunications market in the years to come.
The year of the tablet
Tablet computers will break down the door to the mainstream this year, following the breakthrough success of Apple’s iPad launch in 2010. According to the Yankee Group adoption of tablet computing around the world is outstripping that of HDTVs, handheld gaming consoles and MP3 players. The analyst firm expects the tablet market to grow in value $16 billion in 2010 to a massive $46 billion in 2014, despite the fact that average price per unit nearly will half over that time frame.
Many industry watchers predict that tablets will change the way that consumers access data for work and fun while staying mobile and accessing their social networks.
South Africa ‚ where the iPad was officially released at the end of January- is finally seeing a slice of the action this year. Samsung has also already released its Galaxy Tab to the local market. Hopefully we’ll also see the local launch of the Motorola Xoom (chosen as the product of the year at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), BlackBerry’s offering ‚ the PlayBook, the next generation of iPads and many other Windows and Android tablets during 2011.
This will be good news for hotspot and mobile data operators since consumers will be using even more data on the move.
Android on the rise
The Android operating system has already seized 25% market share across the world and looks likely to grab market share from the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones in South Africa this year. Android is building massive momentum around the world – technology analyst Canalys says it is growing at twice the speed of its competitors.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Android is outpacing the growth of its rivals since it is supported by multiple hardware manufacturers while the BlackBerry smartphone and Apple operating systems are found only on BlackBerry smartphones and Apple devices.
Android brings together the mobile world and the software innovation that powers Google. Increasingly, applications are harnessing the power of the cloud to perform functions that a phone simply doesn’t have the processing muscle for. A good example is Google Goggles, which matches pictures taken on the phone against a database of images stored on Google, and then returns a wealth of contextually correct information to the user.
There is still plenty of space for Android to grow its penetration in South Africa. The Android operating system is already available on handsets from Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola, among others.
Nokia gets its groove back
Nokia has ‚ so far ‚ been one of the big losers in the transition from cellphones to smartphones. But I am going to go out on a limb and predict resurgence for the handset manufacturer in 2011. Nokia’s hardware is still among the best in the industry and the company could bounce back if it successfully brings its software up to date.
Symbian is in for a facelift this year and Nokia has already launched its first version of the Meego operating system for high-end smartphones in the Nokia N8. This could finally bring Nokia’s software up to speed with the latest iterations of iOS, BlackBerry OS and Android. Analysts also seem impressed with the moves new CEO Stephen Elop is making to turn the company around.
ADSL becomes a must-have
Falling prices of ADSL data, paired with growing interest in rich online media services, online gaming and other demanding consumer applications will drive growth of the ADSL market this year. It’s not that users will be replacing their HSDPA modems with ADSL connections ‚ rather that the mobile connection will be used away from home, while the ADSL connection will be the always-on link that connects the home to the internet.
In addition to uncapped and high capped data products, the prospect of local loop unbundling and pressure on Telkom to scrap the telephone rental component of ADSL (the much-hated Telkom tax) could see access prices drop this year or in early 2012. As a result, ADSL will be the must-have connectivity product for the middle-class home.
Tariffs keep dropping
Voice calls will keep getting cheaper this year. In the mobile market, a more aggressive Cell C and a new entrant in the form of Telkom’s 8ta could shake pricing up. Interconnect tariffs are set to drop again in March, which may give some operators and service providers scope to slash retail call rates. Telkom, meanwhile, will find itself under pressure to drop its retail rates to compete more effectively with voice-over Internet protocol services and providers.
Prepare for deepfake impact
Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper
Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt.
A deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.
New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.
In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.
Fooling the naked eye
We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?
There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.
A recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.
To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.
Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.
Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.
Heading off the very real threat
So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.
Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.
Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.
A career in data science – or your money back
The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees
The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa.
Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place. The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT.
The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.
“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.
Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.
“There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.
“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”
The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate.
“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.
EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.
In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course. In year two, this number increased to 400.
“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.
“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”
There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55.
“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.
To find out more, visit http://www.explore-datascience.net.