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Robots will be our partners

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Even though some view the latest developments in AI a little daunting, ANTON VAN HEERDEN, Managing Director and Executive Vice-President, Africa & Middle East at Sage, believes we need to see bots and advanced AI as an opportunity to be more efficient.

South African developers and enterprises are showcasing some of the ways they’re putting the newest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to work, this week at BotCon in Cape Town. Some of the latest developments are a little scary, especially for those who have grown up with rogue AIs and robots in science-fiction or have read the headlines about how we’ll lose millions of jobs worldwide to automation by 2020.

What does this mean for the average business builder or entrepreneur in South Africa? My view is that they should see bots and advanced AI as an opportunity to be more efficient, and make room for more meaningful work for their human employees. Of course, we’ll all need to upskill and reskill ourselves—as millions of people have needed to do in other technology revolutions throughout history— but the good thing is that AI and robotics can help us become more productive and do more ‘human’ work and less of the mundane stuff.

Humans + AI = a great team for small business

AI and bots could change the way small businesses work as much as mobile phones and the Internet have. But rather than replacing human employees, it will help people working for and managing Small & Medium Businesses to achieve more with their time. Used correctly, humans and AI can achieve more together than either can on its own.

Even though many bots today offer fairly basic functionality and features, the pace of innovation in AI and machine learning is accelerating. Advances in areas such as natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition enable us to interact with machines in ways that feel more natural to us. Just think, for example, of asking Siri a question using your voice compared to fiddling with the onscreen keyboard of your iPhone.

More time to innovate and make happy customers

Letting a ‘bot’ file your expense claims, seek quotes for a caterer for your product launch or respond to basic online customer chat requests could save human capacity for innovation and customer service. Sage, for example recently announced that the first accounting chat bot Pegg now has over 20,000 users in 110 countries.

This is important for small businesses since our research consistently shows that finding time for innovation and creativity is a huge bugbear for time-strapped business builders around the world. It’s little wonder, then, that our recent research also illustrates that South African entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about AI rather than fearful (Forum for Business Builders – South Africa data).

South African entrepreneurs love technology and have traditionally been eager to embrace tools that help them get more things done every day. The research also shows that 43% of respondents are ready Hi Arthurfor AI and bots to help them organise their professional life for them. Nearly half (47%) agreed that they would feel comfortable with AI and Bots organising their personal life for them.

Around 61% of respondents chose AI as the most important technology trend for 2017, with only 18% choosing the blockchain. And some 71% said that they would welcome an admin-free world – the sort of world that AI, blockchain and the next wave of disruptive digital technologies will help us to create.

In the final analysis, technology is there to free us from drudge tasks, so that we can focus on the exciting, creative work that humans still do best.

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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