Craig Holmes, VP for Industry Solutions and Business Development, IBM MEA discusses the emerging era of cognitive computing, the new data access demands it is placing on existing ICT infrastructures
Cognitive computing ushers in a new enterprise technology paradigm for Africa’s business and government leaders. This comes at a time when rapid urbanisation has increased demand for key services and has opened an opportunity for the continent to leap-frog legacy systems into the future.
We are witnessing an environment where every piece of data produced by an organisation needs to be and can be harnessed as useful and relevant business intelligence. We are seeing enterprises can capture and store a large variety of unstructured data, mine it and process it more accurately to allow for immediate and meaningful insights. This is helping provide timely data-driven information that will increase the organisation’s ability to respond, innovate and compete.
The ICT infrastructure of any aspiring organisation today must be able to deliver extreme performance to execute real-time analytics on large volumes of big data. The availability of high-performance computing and cloud infrastructure can be tailored for cognitive workloads – including servers with hardware accelerators, low-latency flash storage, and intelligent workload management – that can help business set the pace for innovation by cutting hours of data analysis to milliseconds as well as making the ability to take action on data in real-time a reality.
The industry perspective
The demand is now building up for infrastructure systems choices that are capable of delivering cognitive workloads. However, the demands of different industries or government entities varies, and there is no one-size fits all. Telecommunications companies are transitioning from voice to data-driven and content business entities, building enterprise business units to deal with large corporates and multiple vendor ecosystems, increasing the complexity of their infrastructure more comprehensive.
Retailers are looking for real-time point of sale data, optimising their supply chain while using digital as a method of gaining customer interaction and loyalty. Energy & Utilities, Mining and industrial companies are seeking to gain real-time insights into the performance of their large capital base through the use of Internet of Things platforms.
Banks are also an interesting example, as they need to find increasingly more innovative ways to serve both their existing customers with complete security and at a low cost, while increasing responsive service offerings for the growing number of small and medium-sized tier entrepreneurs. The rise of Fintechs poses a real challenge to the traditional banking model. The trend towards mobile and digital interaction will accelerate.
IBM’s role in the cognitive age
IBM is playing its own distinct role in the new cognitive era by investing in applications and platforms that increasingly will understand, reason, learn and interact – in essence we are the AI platform for business. Our Watson capabilities are being integrated into a universal cloud and data platform to allow companies to develop cognitive applications and processes. Our systems technologies with secure hardware storage with open source databases are becoming the enabler of the cognitive era.
A key part of IBM’s cognitive offering to support digital transformation is our Blockchain proposition, a technology that is quickly being recognised for its capability to redesign processes and systems of record. Blockchain provides a trusted solution for managing the regulatory systems and numerous intermediary parties across complex supply chain systems. These can add time and cost, plus the possibility of error – or worst, tampering. Blockchain helps reduce these vulnerabilities by offering all parties a transparent, synchronised, tamper-resistant and traceable record of all transactions from beginning to end.
There are some emerging and very compelling use cases emerging in South Africa around cross-border trade, tax enforcement, regulatory compliance and financial trading. Into the future, the drive towards digital transformation will gain pace, with the need for further innovations as companies witness how the cognitive approach is revolutionising their business models and unleashing an almost infinite scope of possibilities.