This years’ EOH Connect conference, held at the Sandton Convention Centre, welcomed 3,000 delegates and opened with thought-provoking keynote talks by local and international speakers on fast data and the future of technology in business.
The theme of the conference was Fast Data- Business at the Speed of Thought. “Fast Data is the ability for businesses to leverage multiple streams of real-time data to make in-the-moment decisions,” explains Rob Godlonton, CEO, EOH ICT.
“This is our second EOH Connect conference and we are particularly excited to host it in EOH’s 20th anniversary year.” He said.
The conference was opened by Rob Godlonton who highlighted the need for a platform like the EOH Connect event where there is a high quality of content and knowledge sharing to continue to grow the ICT sector in South Africa and Africa. He is also highlighted that South Africa is currently facing a shortage of developers and that this would be a critical skill for jobs of the future.
According to Godlonton, who is part of Africa’s leading technology provider, the key trends in the technology industry for 2018 are; data explosion, mobile first customers, boundary-less digitisation and accelerating to the cloud, amongst a few others.
Vinny Lingham, Co-founder & CEO of Civic.com then addressed the full-to-capacity room. His address was titled ‘Data storage and ownership: From databases to Blockchain’, in which Lingham argues for the decentralisation of data for improved security but which can only be achieved if we fundamentally reframe the way we think about security, both from a personal and professional capacity.
Lingham argued that, in a fast data world with excessive volumes of data, the way we think about data security is part of the problem. “If businesses can move away from the presumption that knowledge equals identity,” then they can open themselves up to the modern notion around blockchains and decentralised, highly secure, data storage and ownership.
Presenting solutions such as the conversion of digital records including, personal records managed through The Department of Home Affairs to title deeds and vehicle ownership, to Smart Contracts where blockchains ensure payment at the exact point of delivery, and the elimination of the double-spend problem – resolved by Bitcoin several years ago, Lingham argued that companies can commoditise trust through transparency.
Describing Blockchain as a ‘trust less’ economy, he explained that the question of trust is minimised due to the transparency of secure digital transactions. The advantage of a cryptographically secure system is that it ensures data integrity and places data ownership in the hands of the owner, solely.
Applying this thinking in the business world, can lead businesses to find ways to eliminate friction within their business, improve trust with customers, and ultimately re-imagine the way businesses interact with their customers, he argues.
The final opening speech of the conference was delivered by Simone Zanetti, VP Cloud EOH International, outlining his three trends that will shape the world over the next few years: A new energy source, Cloud 3.0, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Zanetti presented a clear link between climate change and increasing amounts of data. Explaining that as the global population moves towards renewable energy solutions such as solar power and electric cars, battery usage will exponentially increase which will result in more data and predictive analytics to manage all of our interconnected devices. Therefore, climate change itself, will affect amount of data simply through the increased adoption of IoT solutions.
He also presented what he calls, ‘Cloud 3.0’, whereby routers will now be able to reach all corners of the globe via weather balloons. Why do we need this? Zanetti says that, “In the next 5 years, everything will be connected to a magnitude of seven times what it is today.” Global companies will use solutions like this to reach new customers in previously out of reach areas.
Perhaps most controversially, he took the audience through the advances in Deep Learning, citing the success of the AlphaGo computer – the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion, using not just AI, but the application of human intuition to win.
Coupled with this, Zanetti, gave an example of the meta language created by Google Translate to create translations from English to Chinese. The technological advancement being that only the Google computer understands this language so it can never be changed or updated by a human. Showcasing the extent to which technology is already operating at.
The full-day conference offered delegates the chance to attend any of the seven tracks dedicated to navigating a fast data world. Each session tackled traditional thinking about how we use, transform and commoditise data and its supporting infrastructure. Highlights include:
Agile, Intelligent Infrastructure, delivered by Rudi Barnard, ICT Solutions Director at EOH, looked at how companies can power their computer platforms of the future via the use of more flexible and more responsive infrastructure.
#DevAnything, delivered by Greg Fullard, Head of Digital Platoon in EOH, showcased how we can expect to see a major shift in the nature of software development as Developers are empowered by the leverage that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning deliver.
Big Analytics, real-time, delivered by Alan Nöthnagel, Blockchain Architect at EOH Big Data Lab, looked at how Fast Data Architecture can help extract meaningful insights from data gathered from real-world systems with a view to ultimately being able to monetise your data.
Analytics-driven Customer Experience, delivered by Simon Just, Managing Executive of EOH Industry Solutions. Overall, the session argued the case for businesses to embed data into its agile planning and into a human-centred design approach to create actionable insights that transform and personalise the customer experience. The interactive session showcased the possibility to convert an algorithm into a microservice within just five minutes.
Blockchain, delivered by Neil Lund, Managing Director EOH private sector, and Dean Addison, Principle Consultant at Freethinking, discussed the potential for blockchain at an enterprise level. Although bitcoin is the only use case for public blockchain, there are countless use cases for enterprise-level blockchain. Many of which are in play in supply chain, mining, and finance already. Panellists concurred that the greatest opportunities for enterprise blockchain would be to look outside your industry and from the perspective of your consumer.
Internet of Things, delivered by Don Brancato, Chief Enterprise Architect with Vertigo. This session discussed the IoT gap, setting out that in South Africa the capability gap within IoT is data and people.
Robotics, presented by Steve Burke, Managing Director at DigiBlu, considered the introduction of robotics, particularly bots, into the workforce. Consensus was that a change management programme in the context of robotics is completely different from a traditional change management process due to speed and complexity. However effective integration into businesses also requires employees to be fully upskilled in the capabilities of bots in order to help identify opportunities for task transference.
The advances of data, not only big data but also fast data, are fundamentally changing the way we interact with everything in our personal and professional lives. With that, the advances in IoT, AI, and machine learning among other edge technologies, must be adopted by businesses to create sustainable innovations.
While legacy systems will prevent many businesses from digitally transforming overnight, the sentiment behind both Lingham and Zanetti’s opening addresses resonated throughout the event; that businesses have to start adopting technologies of the future and reframe the way we think about and use data.