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How cloud transforms all

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Companies of all types are shifting to cloud computing and are therefore being forced to change their way of working. DR WERNER VOGELS, Chief Technology Officer, Amazon.com believes this disruption has lead to new ideas and innovations all the way from start-ups to government organisations.

Organisations from the Public Sector to the Private Sector are undergoing a fundamental shift with the advent of cloud computing.  The shift is disrupting the traditional way of working and the old way of thinking. As the cloud continues to level the playing field for organisations, both large and small, we are seeing fast adoption that has helped to unleash great ideas and innovations from start-ups to enterprises to government organisations.

Transforming industries

Over the last few years we have seen that cloud is becoming a catalyst for changing industries as organisations are able to access vast amounts of compute resources on demand in order to help them innovate. Globally, we are seeing industries like Oil and Gas being transformed as organisations, like Royal Dutch Shell, use the cloud in order to help with oil exploration. The financial services sector is being transformed as institutions like Aviva, the largest insurance company in the UK, use the cloud for calculating insurance premiums and the consumer goods industry is being transformed as organisations like Unilever use the cloud in the research and development of new products.

In the Public Sector this transformation is happening at an equally rapid pace. Researchers are using AWS to speed up science, using the vast compute resources at their fingertips to run more experiments, at a lower cost. Non-Profit Organisations, such as Cancer Research UK, are using the cloud to stop paying for computing power they aren’t using meaning they can focus more of their resources on the important work. We are also seeing cities and governments using AWS to transform the lives of citizens. Through Smart, and Collaborative, City initiatives, such as those we are seeing in Cities as diverse as Chicago in the US, Peterborough in the UK and Paris in France, local governments are innovating with the cloud to enable citizens to enjoy higher standards of living.

This transformation isn’t just happening at the global level, it is also happening at the local level here in South Africa. South African organisations were amongst the earliest adopters of cloud services when AWS launched in 2006. Customers based in South Africa are using AWS to run everything from development and test environments to big data analytics, from mobile, web and social applications to enterprise business applications, public sector and mission critical workloads. AWS now counts some of Africa’s fastest growing businesses as customers including, Entersekt and PayGate as well as established enterprises such as MiX Telematics and Medscheme.

A great example of a South African company that is transforming the travel sector is Travelstart. Started in 1999, Travelstart has grown to become Africa’s largest travel booking website offering flights, hotel bookings, car rental, vacation packages and a range of insurance services. The company operates in more than 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East. By using the cloud to rapidly grow their business, and expand to the Middle East, Travelstart is able to take on the world’s largest companies in their field while also increasing their reliability and levels of customer service. Using AWS Travelstart has been able to rapidly grow their Middle Eastern business while reducing downtime by 25%.

Incubating innovation

We are also seeing tremendous rise in entrepreneurial activities in South Africa and across EMEA. Many start-ups are driving hard to innovate and get their product in the hands of customers at break-neck speeds.

For example, with millions of smart phone users worldwide, and multitude of applications, mobile developers and the businesses they serve need scalable infrastructure to develop and host the backend services.  With the cloud, mobile developers are no longer worried about managing infrastructure resources, which is often either not their core competence or they simply don’t want to spend time on it.  They are now able to focus on building sophisticated, scalable products and accelerating their time to market.  In addition, mobile developers are able to leverage the cloud for fast, complex processing of their application services before delivering the presentation layer across multiple form factors and devices to ensure great user experience.

A local Cape Town example of a company that has offloaded the managing of infrastructure to the cloud so they can focus on delivering customers a great experience is music streaming platform, NicheStreem. Using AWS, NicheStreem has launched their business focusing on niche music genres for music lovers catering for tastes as diverse as Afrikaans music and Naija Gospel. Their first app, called Liedjie, caters to Afrikaans music. Since launching in December 2015 the app now has streamed tens of thousands of tracks to thousands of registered users. By offloading their heavy lifting of managing infrastructure to the cloud, the team at NicheStreem can focus more of their resources on delivering music lovers the best choice in niche music, not on running datacenters.

The reason we are seeing success stories, like NicheStreem, in Africa is because cloud computing gives businesses of any size access to storage, compute, database and many other technologies on a pay as you go basis from anywhere in the world. This is democratising the business world by giving small companies access to the same vast amounts of technology that were only in the realms of the world’s largest organisations in the past. Having immediate access to technology infrastructure is also allowing researchers to turn their ideas into businesses quicker, and at a lower cost, than was previously possible. We are seeing this come from South Africa with a great example being Hyrax Biosciences.

Developed at the South Africa National Bioinformatics Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Hyrax Biosciences has developed HIV drug testing technology in the cloud. Starting as a research programme, the company developed an AWS based technology called Exatype which rapidly and accurately tests HIV drug resistance. Traditionally it costs $300 to $500 to do a single resistance test but, with the AWS based system, Exatype can do this at a fraction of the cost.  The reason this is important is currently 10% of patients on antiretroviral treatment, to combat HIV, do not respond to the drugs provided to them because of drug resistance. Exatype solves this problem by showing clinicians which drugs would be most effective for each individual patient to increase response and improve treatment. By using the cloud Hyrax Biosciences was able to take their research from idea to business in a short amount of time and at a fraction of the cost it would incur before.

Whether it is Travelstart, NicheStreem or Hyrax Biosciences, I’m excited with the innovation we see coming from South Africa. I look forward to see the cloud continue its rapid growth in the country and look forward to see more South African start-ups expand their businesses around the world.

Dr Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer, Amazon.com will be in South Africa in July and will be delivering the keynote address at the AWS Summit in Cape Town on July 12. To register for the event visit the AWS Summit web page at: http://aws.amazon.com/south-africa/summit-cape-town/

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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