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Digital trust must be protected

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Digital trust may appear to be a fairly meaningless buzzword, but it may prove to be the currency of the future, writes PAUL WILLIAMS, Country Manager for Southern Africa at Fortinet.

Digital trust, in a nutshell, is about the ability to protect the digital data shared across a vast digital ecosystem. This information, from social media sharing to private account information, exists in a dispersed and intangible environment, where it is at risk of being collated and used against individuals and organisations in very damaging ways. Yet, personal information must be shared in order for people to make use of the digital productivity tools and platforms available.

In an environment where data unlocks services, and where information is shared readily across multiple platforms, the custodians of that data must build digital trust in order to thrive.

Data is the fuel of the digital economy

The Internet of Things (IoT), heterogeneous data models, mobility, cloud solutions, and analytical tools are driving an inexorable proliferation of data.  Tremendous value and competitive edge is created through the effective use of data, and businesses across all industries are using it to transform themselves and generate new revenue streams. Data has become the fuel of the next generation business economy.

Established industries such as healthcare are now more data-driven than ever before. Data is disrupting businesses too: Uber, the world’s largest point-to-point passenger service, does not own any taxis.  AirBnB is one of the fastest-growing hospitality services without owning a single piece of property. Companies like Google and Facebook are using consumer data to create new revenue streams and deliver better customer experiences. Data has become an invaluable currency, and businesses depend on it to fuel growth and innovation.

Driving value creation  

A report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) titled Digital Globalization: The New Era of Global Flows  found that the flow of data between countries has brought the world closer together and made us all more productive. According to MGI’s analysis, “over a decade, all types of flows acting together have raised world GDP by 10.1 percent over what would have resulted in a world without any cross-border flows. This value amounted to some $7.8 trillion in 2014 alone, and data flows account for $2.8 trillion of this impact.”

Technology makes it possible to correlate, analyse and draw conclusions from data in ways never seen before. Every industry is looking for ways to monetize the data they uniquely own or can gather. Organizations MUST monetize data or they will be left behind.

The reality is that in order for data to fuel and transform businesses, information technology and security are the essential to underpin its value creation. IDC predicts that by the end of this year, revenue growth from information-based products will be double that of the rest of the product/service portfolio for one-third of all Fortune 500 companies.  By 2019, 40% of IT projects will create new digital services and revenue streams that monetize data.  And by 2020, 50% of the Forbes Global 2000 will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services, and experiences.  Clearly, the transformative potential of data is huge, giving data actual financial value. Unfortunately, criminals see the value in data as well.

Cybersecurity in a data-driven world

As cyber attacks worldwide increase in frequency and sophistication, an organisation’s ability to utilise its data is as important as its ability to protect it. Businesses experience value through additional or new revenue, lower costs, or faster time-to-market.  Customers experience value through new or better experiences, greater convenience, and lower cost.

But in order for data to flow freely, and for companies to use that data successfully, it must be protected, and the company must be trusted.  The more individuals believe that businesses will protect their data and use it for good, the more willing they are to provide it. The key to success in the digital economy is trust. Lose that trust, and the impact to your business can be crippling. The reality is that cybersecurity is a business-wide issue, as well as an opportunity to build digital trust which, in the long term, is good for business.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

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.

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