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Technology Trends For 2020

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In 2019, we saw again how Technology continues to alter our ways of life and businesses. Now, we interact with devices much more than, humans and organisations also need more technology than they need people.

It is becoming clearer that the skills of ‘yesterdays’ are no more relevant in the workplaces, thanks to automation and autonomous systems, people are getting to realise the need to reskill and retool to fit in the digital age.

Our top technology trends for 2019 were: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Quantum Computing and 5G Cellular Networks. Looking back, we could say we were more than 80% right on this. A lot more organisations are now moving higher on the AI adoption curve, although large organisations have seen more than ten times adoption rate compared with smaller businesses. Funding in AI startups reached record level of $7.4bl in Q2 2019.

Remember Facebook Libra? That was huge and was going to upturn the financial word. Even though the Libra project has been slowed down significantly by governments and regulators and this has led to some of the key members (Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, etc) pulling out of the consortium, the project is still on and would have had a massive impact on the adoption of Blockchain at an unprecedented scale.

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

Yet, there is a lot more awareness and adoption of Blockchain technology amongst big enterprises. China is now seeking to lead the adoption of Blockchain technology with over 500 projects already registered with the government; we will see major impacts in 2020.

Quantum computing remains at the research level, although there are good strides made in 2019, like the Google’s 53-qubit Sycamore chip and IBM’s opening of first IBM Quantum Computation Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, the impacts are still far from being felt as a major trend. 5G networks also moved from trials to commercial launch in key markets during the year. We have now seen higher adoption of this technology in China, the US, South Korea, the UK, Switzerland and Spain.

What’s up for 2020? Anything New? Based on feedback from technology futurist and researchers, we are not likely going to see any completely new technology trend in 2020. But we will see massive adoption of some of the technology innovations of the past years. Let’s take a look.

2020 Technology Trend Predictions

Trend No 1: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Automation

These three technologies which are closely intertwined are going to have the biggest impact on businesses and lives in 2020. From smartphone assistants to personal home assistant, to autonomous vehicles, to complete automation of over 70% of back office operations, these technologies are a must for serious organisations to consider in 2020.

From career point of view, skills in these areas will also be strategic career development move. Forrester Research estimates Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will threaten the livelihood of 230 million or more knowledge workers, or approximately 9 percent of the global workforce. Though RPA is also creating new jobs while altering existing jobs.

Trend No 2: Blockchain

Blockchain, not crypto-currency, remains one of the greatest innovations of our time. Technologists have argued that blockchain has the capacity to have the ‘internet kind’ of impact on businesses. But many organisations and regulators still confuse blockchain application to just crypto currencies and thus lagging behind in adoption But 2020 will likely see a major turn as we see key industries and governments push ahead on this technology. Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared blockchain “an important breakthrough,” and promised that China would “seize the opportunity.”

The stage is set for the world powers to compete on who controls this technology and the application will be massive especially in the financial industry. Again, for those looking to upskill or considering a career change, blockchain skill demand are now in the top 3 in the developed economies.

Trend No 3: The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G Networks

There are about 20 billion devices connected to the internet today and it is estimated that we could hit 50 billion in 2020. That will be a massive push of activities and data generation across networks; the impact will be great for businesses that are able to exploit the power of big data, machine learning and deep leaning. But all these will be made possible through the escalated deployments of 5G networks.

5G will deliver to us a 10x type of internet speed over our current speed, unparalleled in the history of technology. The exchange of data and the speed of downloads will be a different experience. Enterprises have to prepare on how they will exploit this to deliver a new customer experience. This will have major impacts on the financial industry and how we deliver digital banking today.

The higher speeds will have the potential to improve both the customer experience and bank infrastructure. For example, virtual assistants, enabled by increased data processing speeds, will be able to provide more contextual recommendations in real time. It will also be possible to increase the security of communications with improved biometrics.

Mobility will be a new game, but there are still huddles to be crossed. It is not likely that we will see the full gains of 5G in 2020 and the cost may even be prohibitive for consumers since their 4G devices will still work on 5G networks but enterprises will take advantage of this.

Trend No 4: Distributed Clouds

Over the past 10 years cloud computing has remained one of the top ten technology trends in the world. The impact of cloud in enabling small businesses has been underestimated. Many things are taken for granted today, but just imagine some two decades ago, you want to setup a business and you have to buy every software license, procure servers and have a mini server room/data center. The time and resources required, cloud computing has taken all that away. Things are done a highly reduced cost and unprecedented speed.

Enterprises are implementing different models of cloud computing. From public to provide cloud, a lot more are moving to the cloud in 2020. A recent research by 451 Research demonstrated that 60 percent of financial services companies surveyed reported that implementing cloud technology will be a business priority this year. But the evolution from centralized public cloud to distributed public cloud ushers in a new era of cloud computing. Distributed cloud allows data centers to be located anywhere. This solves both technical issues like latency and also regulatory challenges like data sovereignty.

The Decades in View

The last decade has seen unmatched technology innovation while the tech companies have also seen exponential growth. It was in that decade that we recorded the first trillion dollar companies all from tech money in exception of Saudi Aramco: Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. It was also in that decade that Social Media took over our ways of lives and interactions.

The trio of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp remains the most impactful having one third of the world all interacting. We cannot forget the intrusion of Alexa into our homes and offices, as well as wearables: Apple Watch, Fitbit, etc and with Elon Musk’s Tesla, we saw a new experience in automobile.

All these are still going to make much more impact in this new decade but are we likely to see any new company with the Facebook-like impact? Are we going to have another Amazon or will Amazon and Facebook continue to get bigger even as US regulators are raising concerns about the size of these companies and their ability to muzzle competition? Will there still be Banks or Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple will be the new generation Banks? Will we have the opportunity to time travel? Are we going to have full autonomous vehicles on roads across major cities of the world? Is SpaceX going to succeed in moving us to Mars? Will there still be a need to see a human doctor by the end of this decade? With the explosion in Internet of Things (IoT), is every human going to effectively become an IP node?

Conclusion

While the above is not exhaustive, I do believe they will rank top amongst other trends in 2020 and beyond. I look forward to contributions on other technologies that are not covered in this article and how they will trend in 2020.

References:

https://www.simplilearn.com/top-technology-trends-and-jobsarticle https://www.spiceworks.com/marketing/state-of-it-2019/futuretech/ https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-china-is-pushing-towardglobal-blockchain-dominance/ https://thefinancialbrand.com/90968/banking-technology-5g-aiblockchain-cloud-voice-cx-cybersecurit-trends-2020/ https://www.gartner.com/en/doc/432920-top-10-strategic-technologytrends-for-2020 https://www.comparethecloud.net/articles/2020-the-year-of-cloud/ https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/ai-in-numbers-q2-2019/

By Austine Abolusoro (Group Head, Online Banking, United Bank for Africa)

Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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