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AI already thinking for us

By MATTHEW KIBBY, VP of Enterprise for MEA at Sage



If we were to strip away artificial intelligence (AI) as we know it today, I’m not convinced humans would know how to cope with life.

Without AI, there’d be no Waze or Google Maps to show us where to go. There would be no Siri or Alexa to handle our Google searches or schedule a meeting with the CIO. Boeing 777 pilots only actually fly the plane for seven minutes, with much of the rest being done by AI technology.

There’d be no marketing automation.

No clever sales tools pulling customers in.

No process automation or business insights.

No chatbots answering simple – and frequent – customer queries.

AI already does a lot of the “thinking” for us. It’s been telling us what to do for years and we listen to it because we know it’s right. We could argue that this makes us lazy, but it has also liberated us from life’s mundane tasks, giving us more time to create, to think deeply about business and societal problems, and to solve them in new and exciting ways – or prevent them entirely.

It’s only the beginning

The AI market is growing at an astounding rate. IDC predicts that it will exceed $79 billion by 2022 and Gartner has said that, by 2020, AI will be a top-five investment priority for more than 30% of CIOs.

And we’re only at the narrow intelligence stage. What happens when we start nearing general intelligence? Or super intelligence?

For now, we’re still smarter than the machines. They give us data and we decide what to do with it. We tell them what to look for, what to stop looking for, and how to tell the difference in future. But the goal with general AI is to successfully mimic the human brain so that machines don’t need us to tell them what to do. What happens when that happens?

Not so easy

Before we answer that, think about the human brain for a moment. It processes data rapidly but also applies intuition, creativity, and empathy when making decisions. Machines can’t – and may never – emulate human emotion, which is why AI will always need human intelligence to support it. We created it, after all.

There’s no doubt that smart people will also create Artificial Neural Networks that will think and act like humans. Machines will analyse complex, real-time data and decide what to do for themselves. We may have no choice but to accept their decisions, unless we want to spend decades analysing data that AI already processed – in seconds.

In the amount of time it takes Waze to calculate a route, AI algorithms will predict natural disasters, so response teams can act faster and more effectively. It will analyse your family’s medical history to create a personalised treatment plan and improve your chances of recovery. This after your smartwatch told you to see your doctor immediately because you were at risk of a heart attack.

No AI without humans

The point is, there’s not much point to AI if there aren’t humans on the ground making things happen: emergency teams saving lives, doctors monitoring patients’ vitals and treatment response, visionary business leaders using AI to transform industries.

AI has given human intelligence room to breathe and expand. In business, cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, and process automation reduce the burden of admin and provide the insights and visibility that businesses need to cut through the complexity and stay competitive. AI transforms how enterprises manage their people, processes, and operations, to offer better customer service, boost productivity, and help drive their businesses forward through innovative technology.

Human intelligence and artificial intelligence are complementary, symbiotic, inseparable. There is no one without the other. Yes, machines may become smarter than us, but isn’t that a good thing? When we know exactly what to do, we move faster and get better results. And that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve for decades.


Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC



International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

2018 Market
2023 Market
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s



Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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