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Hope beats reality on 2017 vision forecast

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A new Accenture report forecasts positive outcomes from a people-driven technology agenda for 2017.

Despite fears of economic catastrophe from populist political agendas, a technology report from Accenture predicts positive outcomes from the most significant technology trends that people will apply to disrupt business over the next three years.

According to Accenture Technology Vision 2017, people hold the power to shape and apply technology to create positive change, improve lives, and transform business and society.

The theme of this year’s report, “Technology for People,” is a call to action for business and technology leaders to actively design and direct technology to augment and amplify human capabilities. The report states that we are beginning to see the emergence of technology for people, by people — technology that seamlessly anticipates our needs and delivers hyper-personalized experiences.

“The pace of technology change is breathtaking, bringing about the biggest advancements since the dawn of the Information Age,” said Dr. Roze Phillips, Managing Director for Accenture Consulting. “As technology transforms the way we work and live, it raises important societal challenges and creates new opportunities. Ultimately, people are in control of creating the changes that will affect our lives, and we’re optimistic that responsive and responsible leaders will ensure the positive impact of new technologies.”

As part of the Technology Vision, Accenture surveyed more than 5,400 business and IT executives worldwide. Nearly nine in 10 respondents (86 percent) said that while individual technologies are rapidly advancing, it is the multiplier effect of these technologies that is creating innovation breakthroughs.

The Technology Vision details how — with advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data analytics — humans can now design technology that’s capable of learning to think more like people and to constantly align to and help advance their wants and needs. This human-centered technology approach pays off for businesses, as leading companies will transform relationships from provider to partner — simultaneously transforming internally.

CVS Health is one example of a company that has established a people-centric approach – in this instance to improve healthcare.  Its smartwatch-compatible mobile app sets customers’ personalized reminders for taking medication, snaps pictures of their prescriptions to expedite refills, and scans their insurance card so that store clerks are prepared with up-to-date information. In an industry long associated with impersonal interactions and unbearable wait times, companies like CVS Health are enabling individual empowerment over personal healthcare while simultaneously building closer patient-doctor relationships.

The Technology Vision identifies five emerging technology trends that are essential to business success in today’s digital economy:

·         AI is the new UI. Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming of age, tackling problems both big and small by making interactions simple and smart. AI is becoming the new user interface (UI), underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents agree that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information from and interact with customers.

·         Design for Humans. Technology design decisions are being made by humans, for humans. Technology adapts to how we behave and learns from us to enhance our lives, making them richer and more fulfilling. Eighty percent of executives surveyed agree that organizations need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be — and shape technology to act as their guide to realize desired outcomes.

·         Ecosystems as Macrocosms. Platform companies that provide a single point of access to multiple services have completely broken the rules for how companies operate and compete. Companies don’t just need a platform strategy, they need a rich and robust ecosystem approach to lead in this new era of intelligence. Already, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of executives surveyed reported that digital ecosystems are transforming the way their organizations deliver value.

·         Workforce Marketplace. The number of on-demand labor platforms and online work-management solutions is surging.  As a result, leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Case in point: Eighty-five percent of executives surveyed said they plan to increase their organization’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.

·         The Uncharted. To succeed in today’s ecosystem-driven digital economy, businesses must delve into uncharted territory. Instead of focusing solely on introducing new products and services, they should think much bigger — seizing opportunities to establish rules and standards for entirely new industries. In fact, 74 percent of the executives surveyed said that their organization is entering entirely new digital industries that have yet to be defined.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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