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Welcome 2019: Year of the End-user Application

By CHRIS BUCHANAN, Client Solutions Director, Dell EMC South Africa

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2018 has been a stabilising year for end-user devices. Headlines about declining PC sales and booming smart device shipment numbers were not as frequent. Why? Because end-users are more certain about what they want (a device that makes them more productive) and device vendors are better at delivering on those expectations.

Consider touch screens. A decade ago such a thing was seen as exotic and something most people don’t want. Today you get touch screens on many laptops and they are indispensable. I’ve gone through that myself: I never saw the appeal, until I got a notebook with a touchscreen. Now I go around the office, coaching people on how to use touch interfaces most effectively. Touch allows for fast “corridor meetings” quick collaboration and easy reviews of documents. Even projectors in boardrooms are being replaced by large touch displays.

Tactile is the leading emerging user interface, which I believe is one of the trends we’ll see in 2019: more stylus combinations and affordable touch screens.

BYOD is also changing. In 2018 cloud and user devices started converging in a serious way. It has become a lot easier to separate personal and business data, as well as securing end-point devices. The revolution is not over – good data and security behaviour requires proactive companies with good policies and processes to back both. But as far as the tools are concerned, we’re spoilt for choice. 2019 will make that trend commonplace.

But it will above all be the year of software, aka applications. This is where the action will be in 2019.

What is the point of an end-user device such as a laptop or smartphone? It’s to run software. The better and smoother the software runs, the happier users are. Like the issues with internet browsers on smaller screens a few years ago, the software needs to look the same no matter the device. The presiding paradigm for devices was to throw more power at applications, and more recently we’ve been creative in how we interact with applications, namely touch and gesture. But what about improving the application experience itself? How do you know your people like the applications and actually use them properly?

Here’s an example: a large company decides to change its messenger/VoIP service. The decision was based on the cost of license fees – success is measured by how fast the project is rolled out. Yet what actually happens is that people don’t like the new application. They don’t use it often and start relying on workarounds. Soon enough the collaboration culture is being eroded. In the end, the change was actually a failure, but because it was measured in terms of ROI or project performance the company saw it as a success. The most important metric of all was never available: business value.

Until fairly recently people were essentially forced to adopt new applications and the focus laid on adding more power or device support. But cloud services and shadow IT expose a lot of dissatisfaction with this process. In 2019 we’ll see much more focus on the end-user experience from an application perspective, including metrics on how applications are adopted.

VMWare’s Workforce One is an example of this: it lets administrators see if the software is being used and by who. Unimaginative companies will punish employees for not toeing the line. Progressive companies will use such information to select the right software for their people. That is important because today it’s the users – not the businesses – who dictate technology expectations.

This even reaches into personal devices. Dell Cinema, our software-based enhancements for media and gaming experiences, is proving to be popular. Even a small matter such as how streaming media behaves is a big deal – and that’s more about software than hardware.

In 2019 the differentiator won’t be faster hardware or higher-res screens. Those will remain attractive, but it’s the software that will count most. Software has been the priority for users for a while, but now we have the tools and platforms to really take that up a few notches.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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