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The year of digital transformation is upon us

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With 2016 in full swing, its now more important than ever for the IT industry to evolve, but says SEBASTIAN ISAAC, Business Development Manager at Rectron, we still need to address the skills and awareness needed for us to excel.

With 2016 in full swing, it’s never been more important for the IT industry to evolve in order to remain relevant. From an increasing shift to the cloud and third platform technologies, to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide IT Industry 2016 Predictions centre on digital transformation. In South Africa, while we are certainly seeing similar trends, we still need to address the skills and awareness necessary for us to excel.

Digital transformation at the heart of corporate strategy 

According to the IDC, by the end of 2017, the majority of CEOs will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy, as they apply digital technology to all aspects of business. Linked to this an increased spend on third platform technologies and cloud-based infrastructure. Locally, digital transformation is becoming increasingly important as businesses are considering social and mobile analytics and the cloud to a greater extent, and we are beginning to see a transition.

That said, it is still a work in progress in South Africa. This is especially so when it comes to working in the cloud. We’re still seeing a large number of businesses focused on internal solutions. It is often the smaller businesses that have the capacity to move to the cloud more easily, with the larger enterprises having to follow a process when it comes to transitioning. However, the businesses that can make the shift or partner with industry cloud platforms are in prime position to offer their customers a more complete, packaged solution to meet their needs.

Changing the way we think about software, data and customers

As we continue down the digital transformation road, it stands to reason that businesses will ramp up their software development capabilities as they shift their focus to the creation of digital apps and services. A lot of software development is starting to focus more on extracting specific information and understanding who the customer is to have a more targeted approach. In addition, the embedding of cognitive services into apps is also beginning to gain ground, although there is still a lot of room to fine tune these according to the information that is actually needed.

In the spirit of extracting information, the IDC also predicts that businesses will expand their external data sources significantly. Businesses certainly need to be drawing from multiple data sources to consolidate and verify their information. We’ve seen this trend growing as several of our customers that work with multiple service providers are making use of the information from each of those sources to better analyse what is going on in their industries.

Of course, as we better understand our customers through these various means, it also stands to reason that businesses need to overhaul their digital front door to support the volume of customers coming from a variety of touch points. There is a growing trend for businesses to find inventive ways of getting in touch with their customers by making use of the data they extract to understand how to be relevant in their communications.

The Internet of Things continues to grow

When thinking about how to connect with customers to gain real-time insights into their behaviours and needs, IoT provides the answer. It has the potential to cut out the middle man and allows businesses to connect directly with their customers. In the IT space, it’s possible to embed IoT technology into a printer, for example, so that the manufacturer has control over the sales of consumables and repairs, as well as the opportunity to improve the product based on direct customer feedback. This changes the role of IT vendors as we know them.

However, there are still challenges in the IoT space, especially when it comes to the infrastructure being put in place. IoT is not entirely open platform yet, and for proper drive into this space we need more collaboration between different entities. As long as everyone continues to have their own protocols and standards, we are still a few years away from having a proper working solution to focus on IoT devices.

Innovation and relevance key in 2016

While we still have a way to go, South Africa is keeping up with global IT trends. As a country, we have a lot of innovation to offer and we have the potential to take giant leaps especially in the IoT space. Our challenge in the coming years is to ensure that we upskill and encourage people to be part of the IoT ecosystem and the IT sector in general. We also need to educate other sectors about the value that working in the cloud and using remote monitoring and management of data can add to business.

From Rectron’s perspective, we see the necessity of remaining relevant for our customers. We believe the way to achieve this is to look beyond products themselves and offer a total solution that adds real value to business and acts as a central point across warranty, servicing, and support. It’s an evolving model, but with digital transformation it is inevitable that those succeeding in the IT sector will make the shift.

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Security gets an upgrade – with a few glitches

Video doorbells are all the rage in the USA. Can they work in South Africa? SEAN BACHER tries out the Ring Video DoorBell 2 and Floodlight Cam.

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IP cameras have become synonymous with both business and home security. They are readily available, fairly inexpensive and, in many cases, easy to install.

Many are wireless, allowing one to place the camera anywhere within Wi-Fi range. As a result, they are a solution that can be customised to suit any type of security situation.

A world leader in doorbell security, Amazon subsidiary Ring, has recently extended its range of security devices, which now includes doorbells, floodlights, and Wi-Fi extenders, all designed to enhance and complement existing security beams and electric fences.

First up is the Ring Video DoorBell 2

It doesn’t look much like your normal intercom system, except for the miniature eye that keeps track of mischief that may be happening.  

Setting up is fairly easy. All one needs to do is connect it to the network by pushing the connect button, create an account on the downloaded smartphone app and get started with customisation and certification. Features like sensitivity, alerts, and numbers where these alerts need to be sent can all be preprogrammed. It is then just a matter of positioning the doorbell to get the best video coverage.

Getting the correct position may take some time, though, as cars and pedestrians may set it off. 

Next up is the Floodlight Cam

This works much the same as the doorbell. However, it needs to be mounted to a wall. Ring has you covered there: in the box you will find drill bits, screws and even a screwdriver to help you secure the camera. 

You will have to set alerts, phone numbers, and sensitivity. The spotlight allows you to change what time it should light up and shut down, and the package also includes an alarm, should its beams be broken.

Although this all sounds good, there are a few drawbacks to the Ring solutions. Firstly, unlike the United States, where doorbells are stuck in the vicinity of a front door, allowing them to connect to a network easily, many houses in South Africa have gates that need to be opened before one can reach the front door. This means that the bells are on or near the gate, and they are unable to connect to a home or business network.

Now, however, Ring has launched a Wi-Fi extender, but this requires an additional set-up process – and a fairly expensive one, considering the camera cost.

The Ring devices come with Protection Plans that automatically upload any triggered recordings to the cloud, allowing you to view them at a later stage. This trial period only lasts for 30 days, after which the plans can be extended from R450 for a three month period, up to R1 500 for a twelve-month period.

In practice

The attention to detail in the packaging and the addition of the tools really does put the Ring in a class of its own. No short cuts were taken in its design, and you can immediately see that it’s no rip-off. However, the Protection Plans need to be looked at carefully in terms of their costs.

Aside from this challenge, I found the devices very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response – while I was away. But I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

The devices are rather expensive, though, with the Video Door Bell starting at R3 500 and going up to R7 990, and the Floodlight Cam going for R5 000. It all adds up quickly.

The cost means these solutions may not be quite ready for the South African consumer looking for a complete external perimeter security system.

Despite the Protection Plans, I did find them very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response.

But, I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

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It’s not a ‘techlash’ – it’s a ‘tech clash’

By RORY MOORE, Innovation Lead, Accenture South Africa

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People’s love for technology has let businesses weave it, and themselves, into our lives, transforming how we work live and interact in this new world which we at Accenture are referring to – in our Tech Vision 2020 – as the “post-digital era.” But now we are being held back.

At a time when people see the potential of embracing technology more deeply into their lives, systems and services built for a old era are not supporting where people want to go. The next five years will see radical transformation as technology is realigned to better reflect people’s needs and values.

We look at the latest emerging trends that will transform how we live in work in this fundamentally different post-digital world.
Tech trend 1: “The I in experience” – helping people choose their own adventure

The next generation of technology-driven experiences will be those that make the user an active participant in creating the experience. Businesses are increasingly looking to personalise and individualise experiences to a greater degree than ever before, but are faced with stricter data regulations and users that are wary of services being too invasive. To address this, leading businesses are changing the paradigm and making choice and agency a central component of what they deliver.

Tech trend 2: “Artificial intelligence (AI) and me” – reimagining business through human and AI collaboration

Businesses will have to tap the full potential of AI by making it an additive contributor to work, rather than a backstop for automating boring or repetitive tasks. Until now, enterprises have been using AI to automate parts of their workflows, but as AI capabilities grow, following the old path will limit the full benefit of AI investments, potentially marginalise people, and cap businesses’ ability for growth. Businesses must rethink the work they do to make AI a generative part of the process. To do so, they will have to build new capabilities that improve the contextual comprehension between people and machines.

Tech trend 3: “The dilemma of smart things” – overcoming the “beta burden”

As enterprises convert their products into platforms for digital experiences, new challenges arise that, if left unaddressed, will alienate customers and erode their trust. Now that the true value of a product is being driven by the experience, a facet of the product that enterprises have traditionally retained strict control over, businesses must re-evaluate central questions: how involved they are with the product lifecycle, how to maintain transparency and continuity over product features, when is a product truly “finished”, and even who owns it?

Tech trend 4: “Robots in the wild” – growing businesses’ reach and responsibility

Robotics are no longer contained to the warehouse or factory floor. Autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and other robot-driven machines are fast entering the world around us, allowing businesses to extend this intelligence back into the physical world. As 5G is poised to accelerate this trend, every enterprise must begin to re-think their business through the lens of robotics. Where will they find the most value, and what partners do they need to unlock it? What challenges will they face as they undergo this transformation, and what new responsibilities do they have towards their customers and society at large?

Tech trend 5: “Innovation DNA” – creating an engine for continuous innovation

Businesses should assemble their unique innovation DNA to define how their enterprises grow in the future. Maturing digital technology is making it easier than ever before to transform parts of the business, or find new value in share tools with others. The three key building blocks of innovation DNA are:
Continue on the digital transformation journey
Accelerate research and development (R&D) of scientific advancements and utilise elements such as material sciences and genomic editing to ensure practical applications are leaving these labs quicker than ever before
Leverage the power of DARQ (distributed ledger technology, AI, extended reality and quantum computing) to transform and optimise the business
Differentiation in the post-digital era will be driven by the powerful combinations of innovation and these building blocks will enable exactly that.

It’s not a “techlash”, it’s a “tech-clash”

Essentially, this new digital world is more intimate and personal than ever imaginable, but the models for data, ownership, and experience that define that world have remained the same.

Tech-clash is a clash between old models that are incongruous with people’s expectations. The time to start transformation is now. To this end, businesses need to defuse the tech-clash, build human-centered models and foster deeply trusting relationships.

For more information on how Accenture can help enterprises adopt the latest tech trends to future-proof their businesses in the post-digital era, go to: https://www.accenture.com/za-en.

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