At the beginning of 2015 some major predictions where made. DAN MATTHEWS & MARTIN GUNNARSSON of IFS look at these and comment on whether they will still hold water in 2016.
At the beginning of 2015 we saw some attention-grabbing predictions that suggested major changes were afoot in the IT industry. There have been some notable developments over the course of the year, but it will be interesting to see whether all of the predictions still hold water as the days grow shorter and we begin to look at what 2016 and onwards may hold in store.
We took some of the key predictions made at the start of the year and looked at them under the microscope to see whether the developments they suggest are likely to come true.
“Hybrid cloud is the future”
From tools to enable group decision on where to place the coffee machine in an office, all the way up to using Office 365 exchange and enterprise CRM systems, cloud services are being used today in a vast array of ways across different environments.
However, very few organisations have adopted full cloud services. Usually only very small and/or new start-ups that don’t have a legacy setups or the funds to purchase infrastructures will go fully into the cloud. Most will operate using a hybrid cloud model because they already have existing business critical infrastructure in place, and this architecture is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
As cloud continues to play a bit-part role, many predict the hybrid setup will become an ever greater part of the ecosystem. Gartner, for example, believes that hybrid enterprise resource planning (ERP) environments will be the norm within five years, and it looks like this will be the case as businesses look to mix third party solutions with their in-house cloud architectures.
Trust in cloud services is growing as more people begin using it in their personal and professional lives. And this isn’t just happening in the general public cloud, the so-called ‘mega cloud’ environments are becoming more trustworthy too, as the likes of Amazon and IBM have developed services that can match the needs of large enterprises. This is leading to this architectural evolution.
Over time, onsite services require replacement or updating. When this happens it’s time for organisations to consider whether to invest in their own services, and the competence requirements that go with it, or to buy that solution as a service within the cloud. As companies often have hundreds of different solutions used by different people, cloud can be a more effective way of delivering business critical services.
A hybrid infrastructure enables an organisation to try things out in pockets, ring-fencing a particular development to test it first before instigating a full rollout. The ability to test updates and solutions within a small environment before full implementation can make the end result more effective and less susceptible to bugs that may only be spotted within a live environment.
So if you’re planning updates, what should you do? There are three key things to think about:
1) Maintain a continuous inventory on what cloud services your people are using – try and catch up with people and what they’re doing to try to pre-empt them. For example, if they’re using Google Docs a lot, make it an official service to use, then you can manage it more effectively
2) As you’re updating, renovating, replacing legacy systems – consider whether to instead use the cloud – carry out a full cost/benefit analysis of every service
3) Go and use the big public cloud services where possible as they have solutions around the world, and the best communications backbone to support them
“Mobility is the new normal”
The growth of hybrid cloud solutions is also helping to create a new normal for a mobile workforce, where business smartphones are a core part of business implementation and delivery. At the start of the year some predicted mobility would become a much more dominant factor within the business landscape. While it is true that enterprise mobility is on the rise, we should not lose sight of the fact most of what we do and achieve is done at a desk.
The fact is that mobility really means more than just the device that fits in your pocket. Technology development means that bulky laptops are being replaced by powerful tablets. The Microsoft Surface Pro, for example, has the power of a laptop but the mobility of a tablet that enables an interface where the user can work anywhere in the same way that they would in a traditional office environment.
What does this mean for companies? It means that when selecting software, flexibility is key. It simply has to work across a wide range of devices. This is particularly important when you consider that there are three main groups of users; casual, professional and general.
Casual users are driven by what works best for them, and will choose devices to match this wish. This is where you will find the widest array of devices and platforms. Professional users, such as a mobile workforce, are usually more open to being supplied with a certain device to fit with their needs, but remember they also double up as casual users too as they will want to do simple tasks like checking email. General office users are those based in the office with little mobile movement.
When considering an organisation’s mobility policy businesses need to:
1) Decide whether to try and control the devices and apps people use, or let people choose for themselves? But bear in mind not everyone will agree with your policy (particularly if it impinges on their freedom) and may opt to use their own devices
2) Be platform agnostic, especially if you choose not to control the devices people choose. Services need to operate across all three major mobile operating systems, because people will choose what works best for them, not necessarily what works best for you.
A major buzzword in mobility is wearables. It’s an area where there has been disappointment in 2015 as it hasn’t come true in the way many had hoped it would – Google Glass was arguably one of the highest profile wearable flops on the consumer market. While it’s still a very interesting avenue the scale simply hasn’t happened in 2015. What’s interesting is that others are now looking at this differently. Sony, for example, is designing smart glasses that will be used by professionals, not consumers as Glass originally was due to be.
So what should the IT department do when considering a wearable policy?
1) Wait. Watch the market and monitor for interesting innovations but don’t necessarily invest yet, there’s probably still more to come
2) Don’t think that they will necessarily replace established methods. Using a warehouse as an example, many already have audio instructions delivered by an earpiece and workers use finger-mounted barcode scanners. Make sure you’re thinking through the real difference wearable technology will make, and the value it will add
“Internet of Things will become about software not hardware, platforms not devices”
The Internet of Things (IoT) has spawned a wide variety of quirky ideas, from smart fridges that can tell you when you need more milk to smart homes that ‘know’ you’re home and can control the heating accordingly. In truth though we’re some way from seeing IoT in the mainstream.
Industrial examples of IoT do crop up, though they are hardly commonplace – it’s a slower game. This is largely because examples of IoT in the field tend to be unique solutions to a given challenge, and so standardisation is limited. The benefits and techniques of IoT are not commonly understood and it is a broadly unproven technology, so it takes a far-sighted business to see how it could best use IoT. Then, from a practical standpoint, that business would need to investigate and install the various components required to make a solution work, and it would have to learn how to go about doing business in a way that takes advantage of the technology and either reduces costs or drives revenue growth.
With that in mind it’s important to consider the following when debating whether to roll out IoT:
1) Do you have the money to invest in it now and will it actually deliver a return on your investment?
2) Start at the end. Think about what your end goal will be before you think about whether it’s worth that initial investment
“Investment in Software-as-a-Service will grow”
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is now a commonly used phrase, with many predicting a rapid uptake by business. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), for example, has predicted $78 billion will be invested by 2016.
There are a range of options when purchasing SaaS solutions. The cheaper and potentially easier – at the start – is buying a solution off the shelf that someone else controls. While this may be useful in some situations, in a context where a degree of control is required this can cause pain for the organisation – having an update forced upon your team when they’re in the middle of a big project isn’t going to help the company. In some instances, you will require more control over the solution, and need to be able to make special requests and time updates to fit with the company demands.
This is, of course, in contrast to the growth of a hybrid cloud infrastructure, because the SaaS model often relies on third party architecture. Deploying software platforms into the cloud can be fast, secure and cost-effective, but only if it fits with the company. SaaS won’t work for every business, because every business is different. If, for example, you’re a startup that doesn’t want to or isn’t able to build out its IT team, a SaaS model makes sense. But if your company is security heavy with multiple firewalls and restrictions, it may be that a private cloud infrastructure without SaaS is a better direction – it really depends on the context as to whether this is a good model and will help to decide if this growth really will continue at this level.
There are two alternatives to this model that organisations could implement. Multitenant and single tenant. Multitenant works where you have lots of companies operating within the same database system, for example a large multinational with many brands with the parent company, and this can work for them. However, it does mean you are restricted as to what type customisations and configurations you can make.
The other primary alternative is single tenant, which can be much more effective. Organisations pay on a subscription basis with access to a hybrid cloud solution that incorporates a degree of SaaS and security through the private cloud partition. This enables the individual business to choose what it wants according to its needs, without constraints, and is much more secure.
Choosing a SaaS model to fit your organisation’s needs therefore requires thought and you should consider the following before diving in:
1) Think about the level of control you need. If you’re running a mail server then you won’t need much, but if you’re developing a business critical solution you need as much control as possible, and this affects the investment decision
2) Seriously consider the single tenant option, as it can create a more secure environment that is able to adapt to the needs of the business
There’s no doubting we’re on course for more impressive developments within IT, and the next few years will be an exciting time to work in the industry. What will be interesting to see is what the ‘next big thing’ is and if, under scrutiny, predictions around it are actually likely to come true.
Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon
On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.
“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.
Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion. In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.
A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.
David Noton advises:
- Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky. Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.
- Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
- Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
- Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
- Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability. By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!
How Africa can embrace AI
Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.
To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.
These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.
Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed
AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.
According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.
It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.
Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.
It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.
Combining STEM with the arts
Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.
As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.
For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.
“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.
Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.
Revisiting laws and regulation
For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.
Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.
Preparing for the future
With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.
To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.
It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.