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The key to surviving tech disruption: innovation

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Digital is the new imperative and organisations who haven’t already made the shift have no time to lose, writes NTOMBI MHANGWANI, Africa Director for Integrated Marketing & Communications at Accenture.

We are in the midst of a major technology revolution. Digital now dominates every sector of the economy – it is reshaping industries, disrupting businesses and introducing new operating models. It is also opening up new opportunities to create jobs and boost economic growth. Businesses that are not ready for this revolution will struggle in the next seven years and beyond.

In January 2012, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It marked the end of an era for one of the world’s greatest innovators, a company that played an important part in the lives of millions of people for more than 130 years through the famous “Kodak moment”. The change came swiftly. In a span of just seven years from 2005 to 2012 the company lost half its revenue as new digital technology wiped out its lucrative film business.

Kodak’s experience is not all that uncommon. Many businesses today are reluctant to take bold steps in the face of innovation, new trends or challenges. Soon, these businesses will be vulnerable to more forward-thinking and innovative competitors.

Digital is the new imperative and organisations who haven’t already made the shift have no time to lose. They must take hold of the opportunity to innovate today to ensure that they survive tomorrow. Those who “Seize the Now” and embrace innovation are most likely to ride the wave of digital disruption. They may even have the opportunity to lead in their industries.

Tomorrow’s winners are those businesses that constantly look for new ways to fuel growth, that welcome the agility that cloud technologies bring, that embrace intelligent-enterprise capabilities, and strive to understand and deliver on customer expectations.

Fuel for growth. Digital is driving convergence across a number of industries, enabling new competitors to enter, and forcing companies to redefine how they compete. At the same time, there is added pressure from active investors in various industries who have a higher expectation for profitability. Speed is the new normal and companies are determined to survive this perpetual state of uncertainty by becoming lean and agile enough to focus on aggressive, sustainable growth. The task may be great and the stakes high, but the path forward is clear: to grow, companies must proactively identify activities that drive value, take out costs that are not contributing to business goals and reinvest those savings into growth.

Journey to cloud. Cloud is not the future. It’s already here, and more businesses are finding that the sooner they adopt cloud technology, the better positioned they will be to compete in an increasingly brisk, aggressive marketplace. Companies that want to achieve the type of agility they need to succeed in today’s business climate, migrate to cloud while embracing a robust ecosystem of cloud solutions. And they’re teaming with Accenture to make the journey a safe, affordable and profitable one.

Intelligent enterprise. The next level of operational excellence will emerge from the latest gains in software intelligence. Business and technology leaders must now view software intelligence not as a pilot or a once-off project, but as an across-the-board functionality – one that will drive new levels of evolution and discovery, propelling innovation throughout the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the many great examples.

Intelligent customer management life cycle. New research commissioned by Accenture Interactive in partnership with Forrester Consulting finds that most brands are falling short and customer expectations are outpacing experiences. Only seven percent of brands are exceeding customer expectations and, even worse, 25 percent don’t meet customer expectations at all. Customers’ expectations are forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries. They are brand and quality conscious‚ they seek out the latest trends but watch their budget‚ and look out for personalised as well as unique shopping experience. However, many companies are still failing to deliver on these expectations.

Businesses who are not ready for innovation – driven by digital disruption – will lose customers who are prepared for this modernisation; and companies that meet their needs first will gain a competitive advantage difficult for rivals to overcome.

A business that recognises the power of now, does not hesitate to innovate, take new technology on board and stay ahead of the competition. It is always primed and ready to leap ahead, leaving opponents in its wake.

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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