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How AI and IoT will help drive the future

Disruptive, fast-paced changes are all around us as fundamental shifts take place in business and society, turning the world we thought we knew on its head, writes DEON PRINSLOO, General Manager of Mobile, LG Mobile South Africa.

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These shifts should not be feared as change always brings opportunity and these trends, from population growth to rapid urbanisation to the explosion in big data, will present significant opportunities for all businesses. But to capitalise on these possibilities, business leaders may have to adjust their perspective. We will all need to open our minds to radical new ideas to succeed, part of which will shape the way IoT (Internet of Things) will have an impact on the future of work and how this will drive change in society.

Big businesses are starting to shift their business model and operations towards a more efficient and inclusive use of robotics that shape as well as reinvent the way products are designed, manufactured, used and recovered, encompassing growth from a reliance on increasingly scarce raw materials.

Take for instance, how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a part in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Most companies across the globe have their sights set on leveraging AI, regardless of the industry. AI-enabled products and technologies are increasingly becoming an important point of competitive differentiation, with organisations using AI to obtain a foothold in the quantum leap to greater development.

LG Electronics recently announced a new AI development tool for business divisions, which ultimately is the proprietary deep learning-based artificial intelligence technology in line with its efforts to speed up the release of new products that are equipped with the latest technology. From mobile devices to home appliances – the technology will deliver a comprehensive user experience by linking a host of technologies and solutions to its state-of-the-art AI platform. AI functions such as voice, video and sensor recognition and space and human body detection, developed with data gleaned from usage habits of LG customers over the years. The development tool was developed tothe openness and diversification of variety of operating platforms such as Android, Linux and web OS in mind. The company will simultaneously speed up its release cycle for products equipped with this technology.

With innovative AI platforms such as ThinQ, the “live and learn” philosophy requires machines to educate themselves and become smarter over time. As machine learning becomes more advanced, products will understand their external environments as well as absorb their customers’ behavioural patterns. For example, an air conditioner will learn its inhabitants’ living patterns over time and adjust the room’s temperature to its occupants’ desired range, or cabin monitoring technology in a car can familiarise itself with the driver’s facial expressions and gestures and be able to recognise the moment a driver starts to feel drowsy.

DeepThinQ has already transformed the way certain products for the commercial and consumer sectors are designed. In Korea’s Incheon International Airport, Airport Guide Robots employ sophisticated ambient noise to improve voice recognition, enabling passengers to be better understood. The platform is an embodiment and extension of the company’s open philosophy – to provide the most powerful AI solutions to customers through a strategy of open platform, open partnership and open connectivity.

ThinQ will completely change the way consumers use products because ThinQ products will learn about people to provide intelligent services, not the other way around.

AI learning is disrupting the status quo in the ordinary ecosystem of IoT and we need to consider how emerging technologies, from AI to IoT can reinvent what you do and how you do it. For product or manufacturing businesses, 3D printing is a prime example. This technology is turning traditional production models and workflows on their head – replacing just-in-time supply chains with on-the-spot, on-demand production. By adopting this new technology, companies could turbocharge their R&D process. It could mean moving from design and prototypes to production in drastically shorter periods. Given the repercussions for product manufacturing, keeping track of mega trends shaping our society is vital.

There is no doubt that technology and the companies that spearhead innovation have grown from mere enablers into giant corporations that are redefining the way we live at a tremendous pace. We feel their impact throughout every aspect of our lives – in our home and personal appliances; through industries; across governments; in the media and of course, on social media. Technology is influencing our thoughts and shaping our opinions. The future is here.

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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