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‘People first’ will win digital

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Leading companies that develop a people first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture.

As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

“In the Accenture Technology Vision 2016, we’ve identified five technology trends that are critical to digital success,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology officer. “Digital means people too and a cornerstone of this year’s Vision is people first. Companies that embrace digital can empower their workforce to continuously learn new skills to do more with technology and generate bigger and better business results.”

The five technology trends critical to digital success

In a companion survey of more than 3,100 business and IT executives worldwide, Accenture found that 33 percent of the global economy is already impacted by digital. Additionally, 86 percent of survey respondents anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase at a rapid or unprecedented rate over the next three years.

The Accenture report highlights how companies can often feel overwhelmed by the pace of technology change, experiencing “digital culture shock” at the prospect of keeping up with the competition. However, companies can adopt a people-first approach that will allow them to create new business models that drive digital disruption. One example is GE, which established a new approach called FastWorks that connected employees much more closely to customers and ultimately led to the rapid development of innovative solutions that sold well because they met and exceeded customer expectations. Additionally, Virgin America, the only airline based in Silicon Valley and the highest rated, has gone so far as to collaborate with its frequent flyers, returning customer loyalty with stock options before the company went public.

In the report, Accenture identifies five technology trends fueled by the people first principal that are essential to business success in the digital economy. The trends include:

1.     Intelligent automation. Leaders are embracing automation – powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality – to fundamentally change the way their business operates and drive a new, more productive relationship between people and machines. Significant investments are well underway with 70 percent of survey respondents acknowledging increased AI-related technology investments compared to two years ago, and 55 percent revealing that they plan on using machine learning and embedded AI solutions like IPsoft Amelia extensively.

2.     Liquid workforce. By exploiting technology to enable workforce transformation, leading companies will create highly adaptable and change-ready environments that are able to meet today’s dynamic digital demands. The competitive advantage offered by a liquid workforce is apparent as survey respondents indicated that “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was only the fifth-most-important characteristic they required for employees to perform well in a digital work environment. Other qualities such as ‘the ability to quickly learn’ or ‘the ability to shift gears’ were ranked higher.

3.     Platform economy. Industry leaders are unleashing the power of technology by developing platform-based business models to capture new growth opportunities, driving the most profound change in the global macroeconomic environment since the Industrial Revolution. This is reinforced by 81 percent of our survey respondents who agree that platform-based business models will become part of their organization’s core growth strategy within three years.

4.     Predictable disruption. Fast-emerging digital ecosystems are creating the foundation for the next wave of disruption by straddling markets and blurring industry boundaries; forward-thinking leaders can proactively predict these ecosystem trajectories to gain a competitive advantage. Companies are already significantly or moderately experiencing ecosystem disruption, with 81 percent of survey respondents indicating that they are seeing this in their industry.

5.     Digital Trust. Trust is a cornerstone of the digital economy, said 83 percent of survey respondents. To gain the trust of individuals, ecosystems and regulators in this new landscape, businesses must focus on digital ethics as a core strategy; better security alone won’t be enough.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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