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Harnessing the power of Big Data

Yehia El Amine

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In today’s digital economy, data is king of the hill.

Data has transformed into valuable capital that fuels the production of digital goods and services. Just as automakers can’t manufacture new vehicle models without the necessary financial capital, it can’t make its cars autonomous if it lacks the data to feed the onboard algorithms.

Data management systems are built on data management platforms and can include databases, data lakes, and warehouses, big data management systems, data analytics, and more.

From there, data and analytics combined with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technologies will prove to be vital in efforts to predict, prepare, and respond in a proactive and accelerated manner to a global crisis and its aftermath, all while keeping up with the worldwide digital-first attitude.

A report by Gartner predicts that by the end of 2024, 75 percent of enterprises will shift from piloting to operationalizing AI, driving a 5X increase in streaming data and analytics infrastructures.

In parallel, the rise of data management also carries with it the rise of data governance.

According to Gartner analysts, while data governance is a core component of an overall data management strategy, organizations should focus on the desired business outcomes of a governance program instead of the data itself.

“This is top of mind for many organizations given the growing availability of data and desire to find new business insights. In my opinion, data governance is becoming a boardroom conversation regarding data privacy and security,” Cindy Maike, VP of Industry Solutions, at U.S.-based Cloudera, told Inside Telecom.

Maike added that with cloud computing usage on the rise, companies will require more robust data governance programs to ensure the “data sprawl” does not happen and, if it does, that data is properly managed and governed. 

In turn, AI will have a major role to play in how companies approach their data.

According to Maike, AI goes hand-in-hand with data governance and how and when data can and should be used.

“More companies are using data de-identification and anonymization techniques, but they also need to make sure processes and practices are established to ensure that when they combine data they do not ‘undo’ the anonymization routine,” Cloudera’s VP of Industry Solutions highlighted.

These corporate trends have allowed organizations such as ForHumanity – a U.S.-based nonprofit that examines risks related to AI and automation – to begin developing industry frameworks which companies can leverage when developing AI-based models.

A recent report by Research & Markets predicts that the global market for AI in big data and IoT as a whole will exceed $26B by 2025, as AI makes IoT data 25 percent more efficient and analytics 42 percent more effective for various industries.

This data-fueled shift will be heavily impacted by other emerging technologies, especially by the rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks.

Maike considers that 5G will be one of the foundations of the ecosystem of connected devices, be it phones or the plethora of sensors which exist and continue to grow in businesses, and our individual lives.

“The data will need to flow securely and with the speed to support real-time analytics and decisions to be made at the edge. Thus, making 5G a critical enabler as it delivers the high reliability and low latency this connectivity requires,” she added.

This places the telecoms industry center stage for enabling “connected ecosystems” which is about connecting the digital world and its various participants.

“We see this in Smart City initiatives, connected cars and other areas of connected healthcare.  The telecom industry is at the heart of this, with 5G enabling the capability to connect different devices with the flow of data,” Maike told Inside Telecom.

Cloudera has helped telecom organizations with understanding where and how to optimize their networks and bandwidth, as well as supporting the vast amounts of new subscribers that telecom companies are serving, while improving customer care as a key focus area.

The company is also driving innovation in terms of aiding companies assess the data needed to support their business strategy, they will also look to leverage different infrastructures from cloud, and on-prem, to hybrid models, to support their data strategy in a secure and cost-effective manner.

A study by Gartner forecasts that by 2022, public cloud services will be essential for 90 percent of data and analytics innovation.

“As data and analytics moves to the cloud, data and analytics leaders still struggle to align the right services to the right use cases, which leads to unnecessary increased governance and integration overhead,” the study highlighted.

The ability to harness real-time, highly granular data across a wide range of operations and services will change the way both urban and business environments are managed and experienced. They will unlock a multitude of opportunities for both businesses and government organizations to better serve societies and to help keep up with the technological advancements edging closer over the horizon.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

Technology

AI to shape telecom investments in 2021

Inside Telecom Staff

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As the world came to a screeching halt due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the tech world adopted a full steam ahead approach

This has rapidly pushed technological advancements to the forefront.

Everything from augmented reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and the like were propelled forward and began integration within our lives.

While the pandemic heavily impacted service providers’ spending plans, technology never stopped, and several key areas of telecom IT will demand attention in 2021.

Overall, telecom IT vendor revenue is expected to grow by 2.3 percent in 2021, a welcome improvement on this year’s anticipated 0.6 percent decline although still below 4 percent CAGR for the period 2025, according to a study by Omdia.

While telcos took notes of the on-going tech developments and participated some, they found themselves keen on the prospect of adding AI within their systems to better optimize the way they deliver their services.

In parallel, the broader AI industry is witnessing a migration of AI to the edge. For example, the edge AI training and inference market for chipset sales is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2020 to $10.7 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 35 percent. 

Omdia’s research indicates that 80 percent of service providers see the use of AI and analytics, when it comes to the automation of network activities, as an “important” or “very important” IT project for 2021. Nearly 60 percent of them are planning to increase investment in AI tools.

AI presents telcos with the ability to shed human-intensive networks in favor of an intelligence-driven ecosystem, in order to go along with the ongoing quest to drive new growth, the report added.

Latecomers, telecoms are actively expanding the utilization of AI/Machine Learning (ML) beyond merely digitizing internal and external interactions. “Many Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are already on a journey to become augmented service providers where AI augments human decision making for prediction, analysis, and new revenues,” Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, said in the report.

An example of this could be seen by the changes made by Japan’s Rakuten, who renamed its Network Operations Centers (NOCs) to Service Experience Centers (SECs) as it implements extreme automation for self-aware networks.

In addition, Spanish telecom giant Telefónica established a new wing called Telefónica Tech Ventures which plans to incubate new growth based on AI/ML, cloud, and IoT/Big Data, as well as cybersecurity.

“AI/ML capabilities enable the industry to leverage IT-oriented nimbleness and scale as they seek to manage the complexities of today’s networks and establish new commercial models,” Alusha added.

The integration of AI/ML within these industries will aid existing asset-intensive environments where cost of goods sold, inventory turns, managing factories, and supply chain are the area of focus and success.

In parallel, the Omdia report suggested that service providers should make “targeted use of AI to better orchestrate customer journeys, as well as invest in well integrated central data repositories and robust data management capabilities.”

In the new world of cloud, AI/ML, and software, tech providers do not manufacture a product and sell it, the report highlighted.

“They sell a capability. They sell knowledge. They create it at the same time they deliver it. The business model is different and so are the economics. DriveNets, Enea Openwave, Ericsson, HPE, and Nokia are some vendors among many others that are building software-centric ways of marketing and selling solutions. The point is that AI/ML-based platforms are re-shaping existing commercial models. The winners will be those who act decisively and thoughtfully,” Alusha explained.

According to ABI Research, the consistent and continuous maturity and development of AI/ML will pave the way to enable new value creation in CSPs’ journey in becoming digital service providers.

“Technology is a key pillar of that journey, but there are other key dimensions, that if not considered part of the overall digitalization journey, may limit CSPs’ ability to capture the full value at stake,” the report added.

Under that pretense, change management is considered vital to the alteration, since it represents the bulk of the effort to push for new ways of working and conducting business.

ABI Research found that CSPs who are investing in AI/ML-based platforms must take into consideration the root of efficiency will be derived from knowledge sharing and embracing open platforms where APIs and data can be easily accessed.

Alusha stressed that AI/ML, big data and open APIs offer agility and the ability to drive innovation and enable faster and better decision making.

Consequently, CSPs must realize that the new world in cellular must start with a foundation on software and API-led connectivity.

“The ability to harness the power of software platforms and AI/ML is bound to be a defining feature of CSPs of the future. This may well mean that, in addition to bolting on software and intelligent capabilities, CSPs need to learn how to build them as cloud-edges, Open RAN, and 5G core proliferate in the ecosystem,” Alusha concludes.

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Technology

AI to enhance healthcare system and improve COVID-19 treatment in Britain

Karim Hussami

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healthcare system

The pandemic has shifted the focus regarding many areas in our lives by changing our norms and finding it vital to always search for new ways to improve care, especially as we fight Coronavirus.

While the vaccine is being rolled out around the world in order to fight the virus, artificial intelligence (AI) has also proved to be an effective tool in this scope.

As such, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) will use AI to help improve the outcome for COVID-19 patients and reduce their time spent in hospital.

Benefits of AI

Before the series of lockdowns began, artificial intelligence is being used extensively in many countries to help detect, diagnose and prevent the spread of the virus.

This new-old method includes algorithms that identify patterns and anomalies that are already working to detect and predict the spread of COVID-19, while image recognition systems are speeding up medical diagnosis.

Some of the ways AI can help medical centers and hospitals are:

  1. Help identify virus transmission chains and check broader economic impacts. AI technologies demonstrated their potential to deduce epidemiological data more rapidly than traditional reporting of health data, following several cases.
  2. Institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the OECD (oecd.ai) also included interactive dashboards that track the virus’ spread through live news and real-time data on confirmed coronavirus cases, recoveries, and deaths.
  3. Artificial intelligence has an early warning system that can help detect epidemiological patterns by digging mainstream news, online content amongst other information channels to provide early warnings related to healthcare networks and data flows.
  4. Data collection of populations is key to ensuring scalability and accuracy which is followed by rapid diagnosis to limit contagion and understand the disease spread.

AI could help to rapidly diagnose COVID-19 cases by quickly analysing large volumes of research data. This technology’s text and data mining tools can uncover the virus’ history, transmission, and diagnostics, management measures, and lessons from previous epidemics.

Monitor COVID-19 cases

On the other hand, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “The use of artificial intelligence is already beginning to transform patient care by making the NHS a more predictive, preventive, and personalised health and care service.”

Many countries are using population surveillance to monitor COVID-19 cases (In Korea, algorithms use geolocation data, surveillance-camera footage and credit card records to trace coronavirus patients).

In addition, AI imaging database will improve diagnosis of patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, whilst increased speed and accuracy in diagnosis can lead to early medical intervention and save lives.

Contact tracing systems to identify possible infection routes is a method being implemented in many countries such as Austria, China, Poland, Singapore and Korea.

The power of artificial intelligence is employed to treat one of the most crucial health crises that humans are facing and will have a huge potential for future treatments.

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WhatsApp delays privacy update until May 15

Yehia El Amine

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privacy update

After a hailstorm of controversy, WhatsApp announced on Friday that it will push back its privacy update till May 15, the delay is intended to allow users ample time to review the new conditions.

Initially, the update had required people to agree to the new privacy policy by February 8 or see their accounts shutdown should they refuse. Matters became even more confusing when the company said that it partnered with Facebook on new “integrations,” without specifically saying how the data sharing process would work.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the company said in a statement.

User backlash was driven further forward due to the spread of misinformation which stated that WhatsApp could now read people’s conversations and other personal data. “There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the statement read.

The controversy around the update instantly spread worldwide, as many users began to migrate to rival alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

Mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower said last week that Signal saw 17.8 million app downloads on Apple and Google during the week of Jan. 5 to Jan. 12. That’s a 61-fold increase from just 285,000 the previous week.

Telegram, an already-popular messaging app for people around the world, saw 15.7 million downloads in the Jan. 5 to Jan. 12 period, roughly twice the 7.6 million downloads it saw the previous week.

WhatsApp, meanwhile, saw downloads shrink to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million the week before.

Facebook execs, such as Instagram head Adam Mosseri and WhatsApp lead Will Cathcart, attempted to quell the bleeding, as they took to Twitter to clear up the confusion, but with little to no avail.

It is worth mentioning that the sudden worldwide flare up against WhatsApp could be attributed to a deeply routed problem of trust, or lack thereof.

Facebook has a notorious track record when it comes to digital privacy, to the extent of which its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has frequently testified in front of the U.S. Congress and EU Parliament for that matter.

While the company has clarified time and again that the update will not affect users when talking to friends and family, many refuse to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt.

Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, Zuckerberg left WhatsApp to operate as an independent entity, which would take advantage of its parent company’s infrastructure and resources.

That arrangement allowed the instant messaging app to flourish, gaining billions of news users worldwide.

However, the approach has changed over the years, as both of WhatsApp’s founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, left the company in 2018 due to a falling out with the Facebook CEO. Since then, efforts of stitching together messaging services of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have increased, in the hopes of strengthening their e-commerce presence online.  

The fact that WhatsApp has, over time, turned its sights on monetizing the platform for its large international user base, has eroded trust in the chat app, which, in turn, has had the effect of turning a relatively mundane update into a worldwide controversy.

While Facebook has doubled down on its mission to combat misinformation on the platform, the furor over WhatsApp’s privacy changes is bitterly ironic, seeing that its hands are tied due to the closed and private nature of the service.

WhatsApp has begun sharing graphics in multiple languages detailing exactly what the privacy policy update will mean, as well as giving users a three-month delay to better communicate and explain the changes.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms…We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the statement highlighted.

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