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Tech in business no longer why, but how

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How does one a great customer experiences? How will a multi-cloud strategy support this? How can a business empower employees? And how does mobile tech create productive experiences. These are a few questions KIRSTEN COX of VMware addresses.

Creating outstanding experiences for customers and employees, whose expectations have changed, is the new transformation battleground. This was a prominent theme emerging from VMworld, as was the news that industry re-shaping technologies – like cloud, mobile and security – are very much making this a reality rather than a distant vision. Yet while it may be the case that most organisations now recognise the why? why change? It is the how? How do I do this? has taken centre stage.

How do I create those outstanding customer experiences? How will a multi-cloud strategy support this? How can I really empower my employees? And how do mobile technologies create exciting and productive experience for them? Each are questions that the business and IT teams are asking themselves as they prepare for this profound era of transformation – across all market segments – and thankfully, each can be answered by VMware and its extensive base of 33,000 partners across EMEA.

Our industry-envied ecosystem of partners is the essential ingredient in delivering these cutting edge technologies and techniques that offer real business value to organisations seeking how to change. The how is addressed through delivering against what we see as four strategic IT customer priorities in order to put IT on the front-foot of transformation: to stand out from their market competition by creating outstanding user experiences and engagement.

We see these priorities as modernising the data centre to support business innovation and growth; enabling businesses to integrate public clouds, providing cloud freedom and choice while ensuring the best possible cloud use . Empowering digital workspaces, to enable employees to be productive wherever they are and making sure the right individual has access to the right information; and critically, transforming security so that data, apps, devices, data centres and clouds are compliant and secure.

At the most recent VMworld Europe we provided even more fire-power to help businesses, government departments and service providers benefit from cloud, mobile, security and network function virtualisation (NFV) technologies, for example:

It is validation for our partners and customers to know of the momentum these technologies are gathering in the market. VMware has 10,000 Virtual SAN customers, up from 8,000 last quarter, which is the fastest growth since ESX, and our Cloud Provider Programme has grown 30%.  All of the advanced technologies including NSX and EUC are growing at double or triple digit rates, in many cases faster than the forecasted CAGR from the analysts.

IDC has forecast that 77% of businesses plan to leverage a multi-cloud strategy within the next two years. Gartner predict that the hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market is expected to be $8.5B by 2020. This is just a snapshot at the huge market opportunity that customers and partners alike have today.

Partnering with Perfection

 At VMware we recognise that it is our partners who play a central role in helping to make all of this a reality, by creating deeper partnerships with cloud providers, including our extensive Cloud Provider Program partners as well as partnerships with IBM and AWS. They are the ones building and maintaining relationships with end user organisations, speaking to them day in and day out on the challenges they’re having and providing an array of different solutions and capabilities to ensure they are able to meet their priorities and business outcomes.

Testament to this at the show this year, was the challenge that leading UK furniture retailer DFS encountered, as it needed to quickly handle an increase in customer mobile and online shopping habits. Working alongside our Cloud Provider Programme partner Rackspace, it opted for a cloud-first infrastructure, that helped to transform the company, providing it with an infrastructure that could scale on demand and keep one step ahead of the competition. This improved online and mobile customer experience has helped DFS achieve market leading status, reporting double digit increases in sales for the past three years.

We are also working with our partners to help organisations deliver real societal impact. Take cloud services provider Node Africa for example, which successfully helped InteliPro, a data science consultancy based in Kenya, build a bespoke solution for the East Africa Farmer’s Federation. With the help of Node Africa, InteliPro has been able to successfully build cloud-based analysis tools that grant farmers easy access to financial services and credit they would not normally qualify for.

As Pat Gelsinger stated in his keynote, technology is breaking out of the tech sector and completely transforming entire industries. Yet despite the advancements we have made, there is still a universe of possibilities ahead, for us, for our partners and industry and government. Industry-reshaping technologies are helping organisations to become extraordinary, redefining how they interact with users to compete, and connecting each of us with information in ways not previously possible. It is the collective might of us joining with our partners that will fuel their transformation: firstly by delivering the how and secondly by allowing them to then realize what is possible.

  • Kirsten Cox, Vice President Marketing, EMEA, VMware.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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