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Consumer buy-in essential as man meets machine

Rather than purely boasting about the possibility and opportunity that the Fourth Industrial Revolution can offer our organisations, industries and organisations must do their bit to educate the public about the ways in which these technologies will benefit the end consumer.

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It’s no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has officially begun. The era of intersection between people and machines is among us, with more industries embracing the new technologies that are available.

Historically, the term ‘revolution’ was often associated with hardships, displacement and economic dissonance. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, is often discussed in an energised, excited – and dare I say, blasé – type of attitude, particularly among ICT professionals.

Of course, we in the ICT industry understand the benefits that will come with the digital era, however I find myself wondering whether the consequences of this somewhat peaceful revolution might mirror those of revolutions past if we do not act quickly.

Concern has already begun to spread among the public, with many fearing for their jobs should the impact of technology increase within organisations around the country. As industry, we know the specifics of this particular issue, however we all have a part to play in ensuring optimal understanding around the digital revolution, or risk ushering the same hardships suffered during revolutions past.

Changing the message

We are privileged to not only watch a worldwide revolution take place before us, but to contribute towards it. The work we do in the ICT industry is changing the ways South Africans live and do business, and the impact and implications of the digital revolution are becoming more evident with each passing hour.

New technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and Big Data represent some of the most exciting opportunities for our market, but because of their lack of understanding, it can easily cause uncertainty in the public. Rather than purely boasting about the possibility and opportunity these technologies offer our organisations, industries and organisations must do their bit to educate the public about the ways in which these technologies will benefit the end consumer.

From a Vodacom perspective, we are investing a lot of money in this space to offer increased service to our customers. If you look at our call centres, for instance, we are a business with over 39 million customers, and a lot of time is taken by customers trying to identify themselves when they call us. We need predictive analytics to know why they are calling us, and be able to solve their problems before they even call – meaning our services improve and our customers are ultimately happier. This is the kind of message that must be exerted in order for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to remain peaceful – that not only will human resources remain important to our businesses, but the end consumer will ultimately benefit from new technologies as well.

We also know that these technologies offer huge for cost-saving opportunities for our customers. The Vodacom Group recently launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service. Currently being used in Lesotho, the 5G service uses 3.5GHz spectrum to deliver fixed-wireless access to enterprise customers in the country, providing quicker deployment of broadband services at fibre-like speeds. What we’ve accomplished in Lesotho is an example of what can be achieved in Africa. The project represents a R32,7 billion investment by Vodacom over four years, and if we acquire more access to spectrum, we will be able to drive down infrastructure costs and, in turn, pass huge savings on to the consumer.

Even communities at large can benefit once digital capabilities expand. Vodacom’s prime example of transformation technology is Connected Farmer; the cloud-based web and mobile software solution that has connected thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain. This small business model has achieved its purpose of turning smallholder farmers into a sustainable realistic and executable food manufacturers and retail businesses, increasing the number of smallholder subsistence farmers in commercial agriculture value chains within South Africa.

We are furthermore working with various municipalities on smart metering projects. We assist the Department of Health with the replenishing of stock for hospitals using our IoT system. We are also working with some of the financial services companies in terms of payments and ordering systems, and we recently launched the Citizen Engagement application, a mobile digital app that assists government and citizens with service delivery communication. All of this with the end consumer in mind.

Embrace the revolution

We are fortunate that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been peacefully embraced thus far – but in order for this to remain, we as industry we must make more effort to relay the peaceful message that new technologies are adapted by organisations with the customer in mind.

Once consumers understand that they will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the digital revolution and the new technologies that come along with it, they too will join us in expressing excitement about its impending takeover.

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

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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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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