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AI no new kid on block

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be the new kid on the block, but the truth is it is not, and many think it is just a hype but AI is here to stay, says BRENDAN MCARAVEY, Country Manager at Citrix South Africa.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be the new kid on the block. Everybody is talking about it, and there is a flood of IT products that feature some variety of AI, from machine learning (ML) algorithms to neural networks and deep learning. In this situation, it is tempting to think of AI as just more hype, a fad that will go away in a few months. For various reasons, though, AI is here to stay.

First of all, it’s important to remember that AI isn’t actually new, the technology dates back to the 1950s when a computer learned to develop its own board game strategy. The 1980s saw a wave of expert systems designed to support human professionals in various fields, while in the 1990s and 2000s, AI-based systems were utilised for business-related data mining and medical research, among other things.

The current peak of interest in AI is caused by two recent developments. First, compute power and storage capacities have become incredibly inexpensive. In the 1950s, for example, storage hardware that could hold 3.75 MBytes of data – enough storage space for just one present-day low-resolution photograph – was so big it had to be moved by forklift truck. Today, one can buy a USB stick that can store thousands of high-resolution pictures – and you can easily move it in your pocket, no need for a forklift. At the same time, cloud service providers, especially the hyperscalers, have made seemingly limitless compute power and storage capacities available for always-on private and commercial use.

The second important trend is IoT. A huge variety of devices – from mobile gadgets to factories and facilities – are now equipped with sensor technology, often even with multiple sensors. These sensors generate a steadily increasing flood of data that needs to be processed, analyzed, and acted upon.

The interplay of these data feeds has become so complex that the consequences tend to escape the human eye. For example, analysis of sporadic variations in a machine’s behavior might indicate that maintenance will soon be required, a monitoring approach named ‘predictive maintenance’. Today, these kinds of ‘needle in a haystack’ data discoveries can be performed much faster and more accurately with modern AI-based technology than by humans.

Compute power and storage will continue to become cheaper and more powerful. At the same time, the need for analysis of complex data relations will escalate. This is why AI will become increasingly entrenched in IT and IoT management.

In this context, AI isn’t just for academic research or business trend analysis anymore. For example, it can be used for managing and securing digital workspaces, as it can detect suspicious deviations from users’ normal behavior. Specialised, AI-driven software will alert security teams as soon as, for example, users suddenly start to download files from a server they had never accessed before, and for which they have no access rights. This kind of behavior, potentially a sign of a compromised end user account, can be incredibly hard to detect by manual log file screening – yet it is a routine task for AI-based security analytics software.

In a similar way, AI will soon assist in improving the digital workspace user experience by correlating performance indicators across the chain of apps, services, and network connections that end users need for their daily work. Just like the predictive maintenance scenario in a factory, AI will soon correlate and analyze all components of a digital workspace, informing IT staff about looming quality-of-service degradation.

New software solutions and cloud services will soon make AI a commodity – something that is integrated into all kinds of products and services, in the consumer market as well as in the enterprise. Yet for the foreseeable future, AI will not be able to replace humans in IT management and security, as it lacks human intuition. When a mother scolds a child saying, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”, the child knows the answer is supposed to be: “No”. An artificial intelligence would answer: “Yes!” – for if everybody does it, it must be alright. However, AI is very good at finding the proverbial ‘needle in the haystack’, at repetitive, extensive data analysis – tasks which are very hard for humans. So, in spite of its limitations, AI-based IT management tools provide a big leap forward in making digital workspaces and cloud environments more secure, efficient, and reliable for end users – while saving the IT team time and money.

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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