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Ready for future of work?

Dell recently teamed up with the Institute for the Future to project into the next decades, and predict how emerging technologies like AI the IoT will reshape how we live and work by 2030. CHRIS BUCHANAN, Client Solutions Director Dell EMC South Africa, gives some insight into data collected from South Africa.

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Futurists have long envisioned a brighter tomorrow, full of A.I. helpers and automated environments that run on the sound of our voice. Now that we stand on the edge of that reality, it’s time to realize what it requires of us to make this new world work. With immense possibilities on the horizon comes expanding responsibility. Businesses need to act now to transform their IT, workforce and security to stay ahead of the curve.

Recently, Dell Technologies teamed up with Institute for the Future to project into the next decades, and predict how emerging technologies – such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) – will reshape how we live and work by 2030. With those insights, we extended IFTF’s forecasts and surveyed 3,800 business leaders from around the world to gauge their predictions and preparedness for the future.

What companies will need

It is clear that companies need to change in order to reap the benefits of this new era. Many already are. According to the survey, more than half of the businesses interviewed will be investing in advanced AI and self-learning technologies. Converged infrastructure, which greatly reduces the burden on back-office systems, is attracting nearly as much attention, as are the emerging worlds of augmented and virtual reality.

Three other areas that attract the attention of most businesses are next-generation apps, ultra high-performance compute technologies such as all-flash, and new capabilities to accelerate applications. The business of the future is looking for increased performance, be it for insight, training or business applications. But don’t think this is a technology revolution…

What they need from people

In South Africa, there is great concern about the impact of automation on our employment situation. This is an uncomfortable reality that cannot be ignored. In such a light it may seem the above revelations are not good for people. But it’s quite the opposite: this is a people revolution and, if we address it correctly, it can help all humans.

Even our survey respondents don’t regard technology as leading the change. For example, despite all the talk of remote conferencing, 67 percent feel that face to face interaction will remain very important. Humans are overwhelmingly the secret ingredient to success: today’s businesses still value creative drive and logic as the most valued employee skills, something that remains unchanged even when looking at the future year of 2030.

But some things are changing. There will be a higher emphasis on emotional intelligence and technology literacy, finding space alongside traditional business skills such as project management and complex decision-making.

It is clear that the future depends on empowering people through technology.

Human-machine Partnerships

Automation is a fact: a whopping 96 percent of respondents believe it will happen. Nor does it make sense to avoid. But instead of wondering about what jobs could be lost, we should explore the opportunities technologies bring to current and new roles. If done right, there will be work for everyone.

But then we must consider where the work won’t be. In business, the areas of inventory management, invoicing, troubleshooting, logistics and administration are considered prime candidates for automation. These are where jobs will disappear as new technologies take root.

The human edge will come from partnerships with machines. Humans and machines will work together as integrated teams – 26 percent already do and 30 percent expect it in two years. Take that view to five years and 82 percent of polled businesses expect to have human-machine integrated teams.

But business leaders are torn by what this means for their roles, their businesses and the world at large. 50 percent think automated systems will free up their time, while 42 percent believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading the tasks they don’t want to do to machines.

Supporting Your Workforce

Success will be determined by how a workforce is supported and initiated into this new world. Here there are still challenges, considering that 38 percent of companies struggle to change their workforce’s mindset and culture. More alarming is that 61 percent say their workforces are not ready yet, a number only slightly lower than businesses that lack a digital strategy. This suggests that companies are not strategically prepared for digital changes, so it’s no surprise they aren’t able to change gears on their cultures.

But there are some winning strategies. Of the companies that reported progress in their digital transformations, 53 percent have put policies and technologies in place to support a fully remote, flexible workforce, while 60 percent make customer journeys a boardroom concern. Other successful strategies include tasking senior leaders with spearheading digital change and aligning compensation, training and KPIs to a company’s digital goals and strategy.

Education and training are also major ingredients for success – and something that many employees seek to pursue on their own volition. Creating such opportunities is invaluable. Instead of forcing employees to upskill, give them the means to do so and they will. At least 54 percent of successful digital transformations involve teaching employees coding and software development. In today’s drag-and-drop/low code environments this is important, since even non-technical employees have the capacity to make meaningful changes to systems.

This is an interesting time for business: four separate generations are currently part of the employable population and they all should be brought along on the digital revolution. These employees, regardless of age, seem to thrive most when they are provided training in digital ways of working (54%) and equipped with the latest personal technology tools (54%).

A future with AI systems and automation is not a threat to workers, not if companies invest in training and facilitating them, as well as provide the right digital tools for their jobs. This can’t be divorced from a company’s need to digitally transform – and it is imperative if organisations expect to remain competitive. So as we prepare for the future of work, we must remember that the change begins not with technology or processes, but with our people.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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