Connect with us

Featured

SA must embrace innovation

A recent survey has revealed that although we have the resources to innovate, we are not doing so, and if we do not begin to do so the consequences could be dire, writes WILLIAM MZIMBA, Chief Executive of Accenture SA & Chairman of Accenture Africa.

We are living in an era of abundance – we have all the resources required to solve humanity’s biggest challenges. The activating ingredient is the ability to innovate. However, in South Africa, the results of the Accenture’s 2017 Innovation Index show that we have not yet as a nation embraced innovation. If we don’t turn that around rapidly, the consequences will be dire.

South Africa faces key challenges such as poverty, low levels of education and employment, as well as an urgent need for economic growth. We still have more than seven million people in this country that go to bed without food. We have kids today that are not in the education system. We have adults and youth with no opportunity for employment. The status quo cannot prevail. We know that.

We also know that the rest of the world is not going to solve it for us, nor is the government going to do it for us. We have the resources, power, ability and capability to solve this together. But it is going to require new thinking.

Crowdsourcing solutions to global problems

I recently had the privilege of attending Peter Diamandis’ XPRIZE Visioneers Summit 2017 in Los Angeles – it represents some of the greatest crowdsourcing of innovation the world has ever seen – and a few things struck me:

  • We actually don’t have to think about our problems only within the confines of resources we have;
  • We have all the technology we need today to even mine comets; and
  • Through crowdsourcing we have access to the collective resources on this continent, including financial resources – it’s all we need to begin to solve the greatest challenges that we have.

However, we are collectively challenged: we haven’t yet as a nation understood that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in technologies that enable us to change the course of direction of humanity on this continent. If we don’t embrace these technologies and move at a speed, we are once again going to become the forgotten continent.

I believe that if we can collectively unleash the power of our collective genius – apply our resources and mind power, and leverage the available technologies – we can solve many of the challenges we face. This is the reason why year on year, since 2015, Accenture has run the Innovation Conference to ignite the ingenuity that we have within us and see how we can unleash innovation to solve the challenges we have on this continent.

Where are we falling short?

In a world of exponential potential and ability to grow and take giant leap steps, the Accenture Innovation Index shows that South Africa has moved ahead only a miniscule two points in its ability to innovate. We all talk about it, we all believe it’s important, we read the literature, we see what’s happening elsewhere in the world … but we fail to execute.

Our research shows that businesses agree that strategy is important, that there is a need for us to collectively and collaboratively go into an ideation process, that it is important for us to use data-driven innovation and open innovation for us to bring together a lot of ideas. But when it comes to prioritising those ideas and putting a budget behind them to get them to the execution space, we fail.

The biggest unicorns today – Airbnb, Alibaba, Google – are showing the way. These digitally-driven platform businesses have grown substantially in a very short time. Yet, as a nation, we still haven’t embraced the platform economy. We haven’t yet seen the need to disrupt our own businesses and to start operating on the basis of the value that can be derived from platform economics. Using open innovation in a collaborative way seeking to build businesses of scale requires us to adopt the key principles of platform dynamics.

Advantage of the platform

Platform businesses reflect a few fundamental characteristics. Key among them is that they adopt a differentiated value proposition, led by personalisation, analytics, big data, and market responsive pricing. I believe that this is the area of innovation for us.

When we think about the things that we need to innovate around, we should have at the centre of our thinking how we could begin to create platforms, because platforms, through their ability to scale, are going to allow us the opportunity to get to the growth trajectory that we need so desperately. They will also provide the ability to embrace ecosystems.

A great proposition, mass personalisation, responsive pricing, effective cyber protection, scaling their ecosystem and allowing the network effect to come together can, from today, help South African enterprises to start to migrate to a platform world. However, we are far from ready.

Ideas are worth nothing unless you are able to execute

Compared to G20 countries, South Africa ranks low in terms of platform readiness on the Innovation Index. This ranking was determined by the country’s digital user size and savviness, the entrepreneurship in our environment, our preparedness in terms of the technologies that will allow us to innovate, how open innovation is embraced in our environment and how the policy makers and regulators are enabling platform dynamics.

We need to take note. Innovation is fundamental within a platform economy but, to this world, ideas are worth nothing unless you are able to execute. We need to build that capability. How?

Accenture’s Innovation Architecture is built to take ideas to execution rapidly. It combines Research; a Venture component where we co-operate and coordinate a lot of initiatives with fintechs, insuretechs and startups; and our Accenture Labs where we prototype – we get ideas out of the starting block into something that people can see, feel and touch so that they can begin to understand how they can incorporate that into their processes. Once we have that, we can help our clients build it at speed, embed it and scale it.

However, we need to think about innovation in more than the conventional way.

Innovation is not just about invention

Steve Jobs did not invent the concept of a phone; he built a large platform for a something that already existed and perfected it.  He also got into the music business late, but today his $12 billion iTunes platform is the largest of its kind today. What did he see? He wanted to connect music producers with music consumers. He got into the middle.

This is the opportunity for us – to start to think about what exists out there and how we can repurpose it using our collective genius to come up with a market-defining innovation. Our challenges as a country and as a continent are large; incremental innovation is simply not going to get us there.

Alibaba offers another brilliant example. It is not just an ecommerce platform, it’s an infrastructure and a data company. This is its strength and future. It focusses on its big data capability, matching buyers and sellers on its platform and so offering ever more services on its platform. From the foundation of an ecommerce capability, it saw a great opportunity to connect people in the most rural of rural places in China with a huge market. It has the power to move goods from one place to the other – through Ali-pay it reduces friction in the value chain, and through its insurance offering that insures goods in transit it creates a trust equation between the goods producer and the buyer.

The insight? Alibaba has leveraged ‘exponentialising’ technologies in a combinatorial way to become – in just a few years – one of the largest enterprises today. We have the power to unleash the potential in this country in a similar way.

Featured

Now IBM’s Watson joins IoT revolution in agriculture

Global expansion of the Watson Decision Platform taps into AI, weather and IoT data to boost production

IBM has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, ploughing, planting, spraying and harvesting.

By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase in arable land [1]. IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.

Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska, said: “As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions. For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”

New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the Africa, U.S. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe and Australia.

Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions at IBM, said: “These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analysed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.” 

The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036 [2]. Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem. With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers. The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environmental, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.

The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.

Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is built on IBM PAIRS Geoscope from IBM Research, which quickly processes massive, complex geospatial and time-based datasets collected by satellites, drones, aerial flights, millions of IoT sensors and weather models. It crunches large, complex data and creates insights quickly and easily so farmers and food companies can focus on growing crops for global communities.

IBM and The Weather Company help the agriculture industry find value in weather insights. IBM Research collaborates with start up Hello Tractor to integrate The Weather Company data, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite), and IoT data from tractors. IBM also works with crop nutrition leader Yara to include hyperlocal weather forecasts in its digital platform for real-time recommendations, tailored to specific fields or crops. IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 and has since been helping clients better understand and mitigate the cost of weather on their businesses. The global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is the latest innovation in IBM’s efforts to make weather a more predictable business consideration. Also just announced, Weather Signals is a new AI-based tool that merges The Weather Company data with a company’s own operations data to reveal how minor fluctuations in weather affects business.

The combination of rich weather forecast data from The Weather Company and IBM’s AI and Cloud technologies is designed to provide a unique capability, which is being leveraged by agriculture, energy and utility companies, airlines, retailers and many others to make informed business decisions.

[1] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”

[2] Business Insider Intelligence, 2016 report: https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-agriculture-2016-10


Continue Reading

Featured

What if Amazon used AI to take on factories?

By ANTONY BOURNE, IFS Global Industry Director for Manufacturing

Amazon recently announced record profits of $3.03bn, breaking its own record for the third consecutive time. However, Amazon appears to be at a crossroads as to where it heads next. Beyond pouring additional energy into Amazon Prime, many have wondered whether the company may decide to enter an entirely new sector such as manufacturing to drive future growth, after all, it seems a logical step for the company with its finger in so many pies.

At this point, it is unclear whether Amazon would truly ‘get its hands dirty’ by manufacturing its own products on a grand scale. But what if it did? It’s worth exploring this reality. What if Amazon did decide to move into manufacturing, a sector dominated by traditional firms and one that is yet to see an explosive tech rival enter? After all, many similarly positioned tech giants have stuck to providing data analytics services or consulting to these firms rather than genuinely engaging with and analysing manufacturing techniques directly.

If Amazon did factories

If Amazon decided to take a step into manufacturing, it is likely that they could use the Echo range as a template of what AI can achieve. In recent years,Amazon gained expertise on the way to designing its Echo home speaker range that features Alexa, an artificial intelligence and IoT-based digital assistant.Amazon could replicate a similar form with the deployment of AI and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to create an autonomously-run smart manufacturing plant. Such a plant could feature IIoT sensors to enable the machinery to be run remotely and self-aware; managing external inputs and outputs such as supply deliveries and the shipping of finished goods. Just-in-time logistics would remove the need for warehousing while other machines could be placed in charge of maintenance using AI and remote access. Through this, Amazon could radically reduce the need for human labour and interaction in manufacturing as the use of AI, IIoT and data analytics will leave only the human role for monitoring and strategic evaluation. Amazon has been using autonomous robots in their logistics and distribution centres since 2017. As demonstrated with the Echo range, this technology is available now, with the full capabilities of Blockchain and 5G soon to be realised and allowing an exponentially-increased amount of data to be received, processed and communicated.

Manufacturing with knowledge

Theorising what Amazon’s manufacturing debut would look like provides a stark learning opportunity for traditional manufacturers. After all, wheneverAmazon has entered the fray in other traditional industries such as retail and logistics, the sector has never remained the same again. The key takeaway for manufacturers is that now is the time to start leveraging the sort of technologies and approaches to data management that Amazon is already doing in its current operations. When thinking about how to implement AI and new technologies in existing environments, specific end-business goals and targets must be considered, or else the end result will fail to live up to the most optimistic of expectations. As with any target and goal, the more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results. Once specific targets and deliverables have been considered, the resources and methods of implementation must also be considered. As Amazon did with early automation of their distribution and logistics centres, manufacturers need to implement change gradually and be focused on achieving small and incremental results that will generate wider momentum and the appetite to lead more expansive changes.

In implementing newer technologies, manufacturers need to bear in mind two fundamental aspects of implementation: software and hardware solutions. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is increasingly bolstered by AI, will enable manufacturers to leverage the data from connected IoT devices, sensors, and automated systems from the factory floor and the wider business. ERP software will be the key to making strategic decisions and executing routine operational tasks more efficiently. This will allow manufacturers to keep on top of trends and deliver real-time forecasting and spot any potential problems before they impact the wider business.

As for the hardware, stock management drones and sensor-embedded hardware will be the eyes through which manufacturers view the impact emerging technologies bring to their operations. Unlike manual stock audits and counting, drones with AI capabilities can monitor stock intelligently around production so that operations are not disrupted or halted. Manufacturers will be able to see what is working, what is going wrong, and where there is potential for further improvement and change.

Knowledge for manufacturing

For many traditional manufacturers, they may see Amazon as a looming threat, and smart-factory technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a far off utopia. However, 2019 presents a perfect opportunity for manufacturers themselves to really determine how the tech giants and emerging technologies will affect the industry. Technologies such as AI and IoT are available today; and the full benefits of these technologies will only deepen as they are implemented alongside the maturing of other emerging technologies such as 5G and Blockchain in the next 3-5 years. Manufacturers need to analyse the needs which these technologies can address and produce a proper plan on how to gradually implement these technologies to address specific targets and deliverables. AI-based software and hardware solutions will fundamentally revolutionise manufacturing, yet for 2019, manufacturers just have to be willing to make the first steps in modernisation.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 World Wide Worx