With analysts estimating up to 80 billion devices in the market by 2020, the need for real-time processing and analytics has escalated as companies realise the additional revenue, says NEIL HERBERT, Director: Business Analytics, SAP Africa.
This is also leading to the development of more than 200 000 new apps and services as companies aim to take advantage of the potential benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by exploring new business models, optimisations, and revenue streams. However, business leaders are quickly learning that IoT is simply a tool, not a silver bullet: to extract the optimum value from IoT projects, business leaders still need clarity on its role in driving digital transformation – and bottom-line results.
While some businesses are running multiple IoT implementations across various lines of business but still struggle to realise true commercial benefits, industries such as insurance, retail, supply chain, and agriculture are experiencing exponential benefits as their IoT initiatives deliver transformative business value. In the supply chain, for example, companies are using IoT for intelligent supply chain execution, logistics, and supply chain planning for near-real-time replenishment, smart warehousing, intelligent transportation optimisation, and real-time track and trace.
In a range of other industries, recent use cases are inspiring confidence in the business value of IoT to reduce risk and optimise processes.
IoT delivering business value across industries
The insurance industry is one of the first to deploy large-scale IoT implementations to drive innovation and improve the customer experience. As sensors become more commonplace in the home, at work, and society, insurers will have exponentially growing pools of structured and unstructured data that could provide the foundation of better customer insights, more accurate situational awareness, and improved business processes. Those that prioritise digital transformation have already shown how the combination of data sets from IoT, their own systems, social media, partners, and suppliers can drive innovation and unlock new business models, greater efficiency, and increased competitiveness.
In another example, a company managing large sports stadiums in Germany uses data sets from weather, traffic systems, supply chain, social media, sensors embedded in turnstiles, and retail outlets to monitor operational needs in real time during large events. If, for example, a specific player is performing extraordinarily well on field, their system could inform the retail outlet to increase its stock of jerseys sporting that player’s name, as there’s likely to be increased demand following the end of the match. Similarly, if weather patterns indicate unusually hot temperatures, the system could alert suppliers to dispatch additional stock of drinks and bottled water to meet heightened demand.
Here in Africa, the farming industry – which by some accounts provides income for up to 60% of African citizens – is seeing how IoT and analytics can improve livelihoods by making small but important improvements to farming processes. Farming in Africa mostly involves small-scale farmers, where in developed countries farming is done at a grand scale by large corporations. In a recent rural agricultural project involving an IoT solution, sugar cane farmers gained valuable insights from sensors guiding the optimal harvest and processing times. Sugar cane farmers have a limited window of opportunity to process cut sugar cane; up to 50% of the yield can be degraded if it is not taken for processing within 48 hours of harvest. By using IoT sensors combined with a cloud-based analytics platform that incorporates external data sets such as weather data, African sugar cane farmers that were part of the project received timely information regarding the optimal harvest and processing timelines for their crops, helping them improve their yield and increase their revenue while minimising waste.
Cloud platform enables innovation
With the exponential growth of data, companies need to consider ways to leverage technology to reach and support employees, customers, partners, and suppliers across the world. Here, a cloud platform powered by an in-memory computing platform proves essential, as it not only connects disparate data sources and technologies, but enables innovation at a grand scale.
Globally, companies are leveraging the SAP Leonardo suite of innovation tools, including IoT, to unlock business value and transform their operations, business models, and revenue streams. The most successful implementations include a design thinking element that brings together a broad mix of people within the business to help uncover areas of high-potential IoT innovation. By partnering with a global leader in IoT innovation that can provide a platform, intelligence, insight and support, companies are now able to realise the true transformative benefits of IoT and its associated commercial applications.
UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste
Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.
Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges.
The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries.
Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste)
Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment.
The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.
Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.
The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.
And if the electronics sector is supported
The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions.
The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes:
- International Labour Organization (ILO);
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU);
- United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment);
- United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO);
- United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR);
- United Nations University (UNU), and
- Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS).
The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).
Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.
According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste.
UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling
Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.