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AI: a reality check

Forrester has put forward a collection of predictions for CIOs working on data and analytics initiatives, warning that the capabilities of new technologies, like AI, require the redesign of operating models.

In  2017, Forrester’s predictions for data and analytics indicated that AI was going to be the spark that ignited the insights revolution. Surveys showed that firms investing in AI rose from 40% in 2016 to 51% in 2017. However, 55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell.

In its new report, Prediction 2018: The Honeymoon for AI is Over, Forrester principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals, Boris Evelson, discusses the disconnect between expectation and reality, writing: “AI is not a plug-and-play proposition. Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly, new AI tech will provide meagre benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired outcomes. If CIOs and chief data officers (CDOs) are serious about becoming insights driven, 2018 is the year they must realise that simplistic lift-and-shift approaches will only scratch the surface of possibilities that new tech offers.”

AI will shift analytics and business innovation

Investment into analytics capabilities and getting more out of big data continues unabated. Technology decision makers are fueling the perception that AI is the pinnacle of analytics. Evelson points out that the result of this will be that better human-to-machine interactions will influence the pursuit of AI in 2018. Machines will work alongside executives and employees to make decisions, creating better customer experience and engagement. Forrester predictions include:

1. Around 25% of organisations will supplement point-and-click analytics with conversational User Interfaces.

Business intelligence (BI) vendors are recognising the need to simply ask a question and immediately get an answer.  The use of Natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) for data querying in real time will continue to grow and organisations will add more natural conversations interfaces.

2. AI will be responsible for decision making and real-time instructions at 20% of organisations

In 2018, one in five firms will trust AI to make business decisions and recommendations for both employees and customers. Systems will even suggest what to offer customers, what terms to offer suppliers, and issue instructions to staff. Data-driven decision making will grow considerably over the next year.

3. Unstructured data will become useful

The number of companies with more than 100 terabytes of unstructured data has doubled since 2016. However, only 32% of companies have successfully analysed text data, and even fewer are analysing other unstructured sources. Deep learning will make data analysis more accurate and scalable.

Big Data environments evolve

Many organisations are struggling to show the results of using big data. Evelson believes 2018 will be the year that big data begins to mature.

1. More than 30% of enterprises will pull funding for their data lakes

Forrester says its client enquiries emphasise the disconnect between expensive big data projects and tangible business outcomes. The company says that 2018 will be the year when these projects either demonstrate their benefits, or face the chop.

2. Cloud-first for data analytics

Forrester says we can expect around 50% of companies to shift to a public-cloud-first policy in 2018 for data, big data, and analytics. This is being driven by firms looking to control costs and have more flexibility than their on-premises software can deliver.

Traditional roles re-invented

1. CDOs shift to offense mode

Forrester believes that companies will push Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to move further up the data value chain in order to fast-track innovation.

According to the report, business-focussed CDOs will look to innovate with data, either through analytics embedded in internal business processes or through data-enabled products and services. Moreover, Forrester predicts that in 2018, more than 50% of CDOs will report to the CEO.

The insight market will become more complex

Evelson points out that as the insight market becomes more complex, data and analytics decision makers should re-assess strategies and begin partnering with vendors and other partners.

“Up to 80% of organisations will rely on insights service providers for at least some portion of their capabilities in 2018, driving business for insights service providers, management consultants, and systems integrators,” Evelson writes. “What’s more, academia will become a key insight partner for enterprises.”

In addition to the predictions, the report includes high-level recommendations for business and IT leaders. However, the key takeout is the need for new roles and processes to take full advantage of new technologies, along with an explicit effort to change organisational culture to reap the potential rewards.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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