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How AI can change your business right now

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Data has become the new business currency and companies have access to more data than ever before. But the business differentiator now is what they do with the information. This is where AI comes in says LIKUN ZHAO, GM, Huawei Consumer Business Group SA

A recent global study by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that more than 80% of organisations see artificial intelligence (AI) as a strategic opportunity for their business. The study surveyed companies from 21 industries in 112 countries, highlighting the fact that AI can serve multiple sectors, and is not just limited to a handful of business segments.

What is AI?

The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was actually coined way back in the 1950s, and since then its definition has broadened widely as technology becomes smarter, data becomes more prolific, and analytics become more nuanced. At its most basic level, AI refers to a system that is capable of learning from data. As more data is inputted, the system gets smarter and is able to take more action on its own, accomplishing what only humans could do previously, but in a much shorter timeframe and with increasing accuracy.

Data has become the new business currency, and, thanks to new technologies, companies have access to more data than ever before. But the business differentiator is not who has the most data but what they do with the information. And this is where AI comes in. AI essentially unlocks the power of data. Through the use of AI, systems can process massive amounts of data and transform this data into knowledge – knowledge about everything from customers and staff to procedures and time management.

Getting to know your customers

The better you know your consumers, the better you are able to give them more personalised brand experiences that will turn them into loyal customers. AI is an extremely useful tool to learn more about your clients’ preferences and buying habits. It is already being used extensively in ecommerce, where customers’ ‘Wish Lists’ and previous purchases can provide insight into their interests, likes and spending patterns. One of AI’s key benefits is that this data is available in real time, so online retailers can act on this information immediately. The insurance industry is also using AI to get to know its clients’ driving behaviour, which not only results in lower premiums for safe drivers, but also gives insurers more information about their clients that could be used for future company innovations that will address a glaring need they would otherwise not be aware of.

Optimising employee performance

Of course, your customers are not the only people important to your business. The advantages of AI are not solely externally focused but can also turn inward to put the spotlight on the individuals who make your business happen. AI can be used effectively in many HR processes, such as the hiring of new staff and performance reviews. In addition, it can assist in detecting potential staff issues, such as regular absenteeism, before they become problems, and even point to possible causes. AI is also an incredibly useful tool for compiling staff schedules and allocating resources on certain projects, in order to optimise productivity, augment outcomes and reduce costs.

Enhancing business operations

Whatever your business, AI can enhance how you run things. In manufacturing, for example, AI can be used to quickly resolve issues on the floor by accessing data on how similar problems were addressed in the past. In sales, cold calling can become a thing of the past as AI can help to generate more accurate leads. Delivery companies can use AI to manage and monitor their fleets, and more accurately assign tasks and achieve quicker deliveries. Across industries, AI can assist in driving down costs, optimising time management, compiling accurate reports and better serving customers. Real-time processing of data ensures businesses keep up to date with better information, better recommendations and more insightful predictive power, to optimise business decisions.

AI on your phone: the businessperson’s virtual assistant

Cellphones have been vital business tools for almost two decades now, and their importance has only accelerated as the idea of the flexible workforce starts to take shape. Smartphones are also becoming increasingly intelligent as AI is being integrated more and more into their systems and applications. However, AI has also been known to slow down phone performance considerably, drain battery life, as well as open users up to privacy problems – none of which are good for business.

As the first and only phone with on-device AI, the new Huawei Mate 10 Pro is able to address all these issues. Because the artificial intelligence is on the phone, all your information stays on the device, and you do not need a network to use traditionally data-draining apps. In addition, the Huawei Mate 10 is built to avoid battery waste, manage abnormal power consumption and maximise battery usage. This makes the phone an ideal business companion, as you will never be let down by a dying battery, even in the case of excessive usage.

Because it is an AI-enabled device, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is also able to learn your cellphone habits and preferences, so over time it can become more intuitive and give you a more personalised experience. This kind of intelligence goes well beyond what Siri and other voice-activated assistants can do.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is giving people a taste of what artificial intelligence can do for business, especially in terms of having a more customised consumer experience. AI is undeniably the future of business, and companies that use it wisely will have a definite competitive advantage, or risk getting left far behind.

 

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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