The time is now for broadcasters to adopt Cloud services

The time is now for broadcasters to adopt Cloud services

Paul Divall, Managing Director, Intelligent Technologies – The Jasco Group.

Cloud and virtualisation technologies have the potential to entirely reshape the local broadcast industry – changing how broadcasters create, distribute and monetise their video content.

“In recent years, Cloud computing architectures have shown clear value in so many other industries and we’re now approaching a time when the broadcast industry can start to benefit in similar ways. We are seeing better operational efficiencies, more collaborative workflows and accelerated levels of innovation,” says Paul Divall, MD of Jasco Intelligent Technologies.

According to Divall, it’s only a matter of time before the broadcast industry starts embracing the advantages of the Cloud.

In fact, a number of ‘digital-era’ broadcasters – the likes of Netflix for example – have firmly embraced Cloud platforms to scale limitlessly and reach users on any kind of device, anywhere in the world.

Locally, Divall sees a number of clear advantages for South African broadcasters adopting Cloud services:

Seamless integration between services

Our broadcasting landscape is traditionally very fragmented and lacking in overarching standardisation. Within different broadcasters, workflows and technologies are different and inefficiency often permeates the broadcast value chain. Cloud applications can help to simplify, abstract or unify these legacy systems – creating cleaner workflows and ultimately a more efficient broadcast operation.

Enhanced collaboration

Teams can be geographically-dispersed or co-located; they can be working on the same raw footage together; or tackling different aspects of the same activity. With Cloud applications it becomes easier for teams to collaborate. So, for example, from a single raw stream of cricket footage one person can be working on the 60-minute highlights package, another on the 30-minute version and another on the 5-minute version.

Reduced costs

Because the teams can now collaborate from anywhere in the world, not everyone needs to travel to a single location (such as travelling to Rio for the Olympics last year). This can dramatically reduce the total costs of creating broadcast content.

Increased use of data analytics

By being able to collect, store and analyse data with powerful Cloud-enabled Big Data tools, broadcasters can comb through vast volumes of data. These insights can be used to fuel greater levels of personalisation, new customer experiences and services and more tailored advertising opportunities.

Scale capacity up and down as required

For the likes of high-profile sporting events or surges in seasonal demand, broadcasters can leverage Cloud Computing to access capacity as and when it is required – paying only for what they use – and avoiding the problem of having unused capacity in their data centres.

Access to new applications… A wide variety of new applications – for editing, post-production, effects and other tools – becomes instantly available as a broadcaster moves their workflows into the Cloud.

Accessing outsourced talent

By shifting to public Cloud environments, broadcasters can more easily pull in outsourced or crowdsourced creative talent – allowing them to infuse new creative approaches into their work and flexibility onboard resources as and when they are needed, minimising their salary and overhead bills. Divall notes that for many local broadcasters, the Cloud has remained a far-away dream, particularly when one considers that just one minute of pro-resolution 4K Ultra HD video comes in at a weighty 5.3 gigs, and that streaming this content through workflows requires an eye-watering 880 Mbps of dedicated bandwidth.

But while the public internet may not be viable, using dedicated private links and hybrid or private Cloud environments, some of these benefits start to become a reality.

As broadcasters overcome some of the bandwidth concerns and better understand the security considerations, we could well see a new Cloud-enabled broadcast era descend… sometime in the not-too-distant future.

By Paul Divall, Director, Intelligent Technologies – The Jasco Group

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Ducati, NetApp partner to drive digital transformation in MotoGP World Championship

Ducati, NetApp partner to drive digital transformation in MotoGP World Championship

Ducati, NetApp partner to drive digital transformation in MotoGP World Championship.

NetApp has announced a partnership with Ducati (part of Volkswagen Group) to drive the digital transformation of motorcycle racing as the official sponsor of the Ducati Team in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, started March 18 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, with the massive win obtained by Andrea Dovizioso, NetApp will help Ducati to accelerate its performance, stability, and reliability, both on and off the track.

Ever since the dawn of the four-stroke era in 2002 opened the door for Ducati to join the MotoGP World Championship, the Italian manufacturer based in Bologna has worked tirelessly to improve its bikes and racing strategy at every turn. Recognizing that its data was becoming increasingly distributed, dynamic, and diverse, Ducati turned to NetApp. As a result, during the championship races, Ducati Team members will have fast, reliable access to real-time data from anywhere in the world.

“NetApp is a crucial partner for the Ducati Team for digital transformation projects, as data is at the heart of our strategy,” said Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse general manager. “With NetApp, we will be able to unlock the value of our data and make critical decisions based on the big data coming from one of the most advanced IoT systems: a MotoGP bike. Every minute of a race will provide us with new insights into how we can optimize operations and innovate to improve performance.”

Ducati will count on the NetApp Data Fabric for the Ducati Team as it participates in 19 races in 15 countries on 5 continents as part of the MotoGP Championship around the globe. Moreover, Ducati will use NetApp technologies to modernize its IT and data protection infrastructure, enhancing data protection and security as well as accelerating GDPR readiness.

“Ducati and NetApp share the same extraordinary passion for innovation,” said Henri Richard, executive vice president of worldwide field and customer operations at NetApp. “We look forward to working with Ducati to accelerate their digital transformation, increase their performance, and enhance the security and value of their data.”

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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SITA Air Transport Community Foundation Innovation Award 2018 opens applications

SITA Air Transport Community Foundation Innovation Award 2018 opens applications

SITA Air Transport Community Foundation Innovation Award 2018 opens applications.(image source: Quartz)

The SITA Air Transport Community Foundation, based in the UK, in conjunction with Wits University and the Tshimologong Precinct, has launched an innovation competition to address the question ‘What information, tools or technology will first-time air travellers in Africa need to make their journeys easy, successful and enjoyable?’. The SITA Air Transport Community Foundation Innovation Award 2018 offers a prize valued at $10,000 (about R110k) and will reward the best response to the challenge.

Itumeleng Dhlamini, partner engagement manager at the Tshimologong Precinct, says that Africa is predicted to grow faster than any other region over the next 20 years: “Taking this growth into account and the increasing penetration of mobile and digital technologies, SITA wanted to offer up the challenge to the people most likely to make up this new generation of air travellers.”

She says that SITA,  has partnered with Wits University since 2015 to support students from Africa who need financial backing to succeed in their studies; and to add much-needed skills and expertise to the aviation industry through support for targeted academic disciplines.

The innovation competition kicks off this month and is open to Wits students and active members of the Tshimologong Precinct. Each team, comprising of 2 – 5 members, needs to submit an initial 2-minute video after attending a drop-in session on 27 March 2018 to better understand the issue, project and overall requirements.

24 April marks the first deadline after which a shortlist will be announced on 2 May. Submissions can include a well-defined proof of concept; data modelling and recommendations based on data analysis; detailed research with recommendations for future activities; and the use of technology to address the issue.

Preliminary judging will take place in early July, after which final presentations and judging will be concluded at an award ceremony on 20 July.

“The aim of the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation is to provide ICT and education for learners in Africa, and to help build key skills for the next generation. We created this Innovation Award to highlight the challenges and opportunities for a continent that is seeing a changing demographic coupled with growth in technology and aviation. It will provide a unique perspective for these future travellers to consider each touchpoint of air travel – from booking to navigating airports, boarding, and arriving at their destination. We’re delighted to be working with Wits and Tshimologong to run this initiative,” says Amber Harrison, Director Corporate Social Responsibility at SITA.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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African e-health project in Ghana completed

African e-health project in Ghana completed

African e-health project in Ghana completed.

Dutch company Delft Imaging Systems has successfully completed its African e-health and tuberculosis (TB) project in Ghana this March 2018. 51 X-ray systems were installed across the country to accelerate TB case detection in Ghana.

March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. Tuberculosis is curable, but kills 5000 people every day. A target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to end TB globally by 2030. Effective prevention, detection and treatment of TB is key to achieve this goal in the next 12 years.

Ghana, according to the firm, is in the global high burden list for TB. In 2016, the national project ‘Accelerating Tuberculosis Case Detection in Ghana’ was approved by the Ghanaian government. With the help of a Dutch Government ORIO grant and partnering with Oldelft Benelux, local daughter company Universal Delft and the Universal Hospitals Group Ghana, Delft Imaging Systems installed 51 X-ray systems in hospitals, containers and screening vans across all Ghana. As stated by the firm, the mobile screening solutions are self-sustainable thanks to solar panels and can reach even the remotest locations.

18 multifunctional X-ray units were permanently installed in hospitals. This way, hospitals can also use the X-rays to diagnose injuries and fractures in general. In addition, 29 X-ray systems in containers, 2 TB-screening vans and 2 EasyPortable X-ray systems were supplied.

The X-ray systems have been equipped with Computer Aided Detection for TB (CAD4TB) software and teleradiology technology. By applying deep learning technology, as revealed by the company, to thousands of healthy and diseased X-rays, CAD4TB can indicate the likelihood of tuberculosis. It’s possible to screen up to 200 images per day. Only patients with a high CAD4TB score will be tested with the standard and more expensive GeneXpert test. This makes it a very effective way to find TB at an early stage in poor communities.

All the X-ray systems, as revealed by the firm, are interlinked to a central e-health platform in Accra. The teleradiology solution makes it possible to exchange X-ray images with all connected hospitals and clinics. The combination of the unique and cost-effective e-health platform and multifunctional X-ray systems will strengthen the Ghanaian healthcare system as a whole.

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Almost 2Tbps: Arbor Networks foils largest-ever DDoS attack

Almost 2Tbps: Arbor Networks foils largest-ever DDoS attack

Bryan Hamman, Arbor Network’s territory manager for sub-Saharan Africa.

In a world in which bigger often means better, Arbor Networks, the security division of NETSCOUT, was recently put to the test and passed with flying colours.

This is according to Bryan Hamman, Arbor Network’s territory manager for Sub-Saharan Africa who clarifies, “The world is now in the era of the terabit-sized distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Recently, we saw that the biggest DDoS attack ever was mitigated by Arbor Networks defences.

This comes after a 1.3Tbps DDoS attack was confirmed against developer platform GitHub on 28 February, which was unavailable from 17:21 to 17:26 UTC, and intermittently unavailable from 17:26 to 17:30 UTC, due to the attack. At the time, this was the most powerful DDoS attack recorded to date.

“Just days later, during the first week of March, Arbor Networks was able to confirm that an even larger attack of 1.7Tbps – a reflection/amplification attack – was targeted at a customer of an American-based service provider and recorded by the Arbor ATLAS global traffic and DDoS threat data system. The attack was unsuccessful.”

Hamman notes that the attack was based on the same memcached reflection/amplification attack vector that made up the GitHub attack, and that no outages were reported, despite the huge size of this DDoS attack, because of the defence capabilities that the service provider had in place to protect against such an attack.

The previous record noted by ATLAS was 650Gbps towards a target in Brazil during 2016.

In a recent Arbor Networks blog, Carlos Morales, the vice president of Global Sales Engineering and Operations at Arbor Networks, writes, “While the internet community is coming together to shut down access to the many open memcached servers out there, the sheer number of servers running memcached openly will make this a lasting vulnerability that attackers will exploit. It is critically important for companies to take the necessary steps to protect themselves including implementation of best current practices described in the following Arbor Security Engineering and Response Team (ASERT) blog.”

Morales continues, “It is also very important to work with DDoS mitigation service providers, such as Arbor Cloud, that have sufficient scale and expertise to block attacks of this size. Arbor Cloud… is well equipped to handle attacks of this scale…. Until the internet community is able to adjust and make significant progress on memcached servers, we should expect terabit attacks to continue.”

For more information about Arbor in Africa, please contact Bryan Hamman at

Staff Writer

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Five key innovations that have made BI what it is today

Five key innovations that have made BI what it is today

Five key innovations that have made BI what it is today. (image source: Business 2 Community)

The following five innovations have all significantly shaped the current era of business intelligence (BI). If the solution you’re considering has all of them, you’ve picked a pioneering front-runner. If it doesn’t, or is playing catch-up, you may want to look around a little longer. (Hint: You’re dealing with a very small pool of candidates.)

Enterprise Web platform
In the early 2000s, most BI solutions were desktop-installed, proprietary enterprise software products that were difficult to use and deploy globally.

At the time, Web technologies were in their infancy and few vendors would have chosen to build a Web-based platform, yet some had the courage and vision to imagine (and build) an end-to-end workflow delivered in the browser.

Over time, this came to be a significant point of difference in the industry. Today, no vendor would even consider creating a product that doesn’t have at least an element of Web-based deployment, leaving many legacy providers battling to migrate their platforms to an online delivery model.

Metadata layer (and security)
The BI world owes much to enterprise architects joining the industry from the banking sector. Vendors, benefiting from their skills, inherited the insight that analytics doesn’t happen at the desktop level, but throughout the enterprise. Products therefore must cater for an enterprise involvement, and have governance and security baked in.

On the back of this insight, visionary products were built around a metadata layer, so that businesses may control how their data is described and accessed in a distributed environment.

A native metadata layer lends a strategic difference to solutions operating in large enterprise or embedded developments. Vendors whose products include it can innovate in ways that others cannot replicate – the same flexibility simply cannot be achieved with a bolt-on solution.

Letting users create stories with data
Apart from architectural and platform-centric evolutions, BI solutions have also had to make functional strides. Storyboarding is one way in which leading solutions have deviated from traditional BI and analytics. Rather than just focusing on reporting and dashboards, storyboarding works on the principle that analytics deliver the most value when they tell a gripping story.

A dashboard, which is just a grouping of visualisations or tables, doesn’t tell a story about the bigger picture. The user still needs to create a story from it. Realising this, pioneering solutions have for some time provided users with the tools to create stories that help them relate the meaning of the data – a much copied strategy.

Designing for collaboration
But BI also has to offer more than core analytics, dashboards, reporting and storyboarding. A few advanced solutions have embraced the need for collaborative functionality, in keeping with organisations’ need to share and communicate information. After all, the real users of information are business users, and they need more than dashboards to understand what drives numbers and to talk about them.

A key evolution in collaborative tools is the use of timelines. Users can see everything that happened with their data and what people are saying about it, opening up a world of collaboration and insights into how people use information in the business.

The vast majority of products in the market today are analyst-bound and don’t prioritise collaboration. But some are catching on, and collaboration for business users is becoming more pervasive.

Connecting users and content by automating insights
A truly ground-breaking recent innovation in BI has been the introduction of smart data discovery, which enables business users to easily arrive at insights from advanced analytics.

Several vendors have dabbled in smart discovery with search-based or visual tools, but few have managed to create mature products – mostly because the discovery experience has been centred around single islands of data rather than outcomes-based, enterprise-wide views. Similarly, such solutions don’t offer business users the ability to ask why something happened or understand it quickly.

Best-in-class smart data capabilities offer a collaborative approach bringing the business and content together by giving users the ability to engage with data, understand and learn from it, and share it. Without a metadata layer, vendors may find it hard to develop truly valuable data discovery capabilities, while those that do will pull ahead on their automation journey.

Basis for decision
Which of these capabilities does your vendor offer? If most of them, you may be onto a good thing. If not, this roundup ought to give you the basis for some very searching questions.

By Gustav Piater, Sales & Marketing Director, AIGS (Yellowfin South Africa)

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South Africa diners get mobile app

South Africa diners get mobile app

Dineplan founders Martin Rose and Greg Whitfield.

South African software company, Dineplan has announced the launch of a free mobile app for diners to search available tables and book at more than 1000 restaurants countrywide.

The app, which can be downloaded on Android and iOS phones, allows users to explore restaurants by availability, name and area; or find nearby restaurants with available tables based on their current location to make effortless reservations at a tap of a button.

Indecisive diners can peruse ratings, cuisines on offer, price range, open times and the attributes of each eatery to help them pick and book the perfect place. Once an instant booking is made, the app user immediately receives an SMS and email confirming the details of their booking.

On the day of the booking, they will receive a reminder SMS asking them to reply ‘Confirm’ or ‘Cancel’ to automatically update the status of their booking.

Dineplan founders Martin Rose and Greg Whitfield, who have been friends since school, started the reservation
software company in Cape Town in 2011 after they one day agreed over lunch how diners require the instant
satisfaction of making quick and successful reservations.

They started developing back-end software for restaurants to use as their electronic reservation book, which would
later enable instant bookings to diners. Today, more than 20 000 bookings are made across the South African Dineplan network every day, with 30% of these made online.

“We have been developing the Dineplan software and selling it to restaurants for seven years,” said Rose.
“With more than 1000 local restaurants using Dineplan to manage their reservations, we have access to the availability of any of these restaurants at any time. “The app allows us to make this information available to the public in a very convenient manner, allowing them to search this availability and make an instant booking at any of these restaurants.”

Trendsetting online bookings
“I think the app will make a significant impact in the SA market. There is no other app or website in the country that can offer this service,” added Whitfield. “Consumers are rapidly moving online and becoming more technologically-minded.

For last-minute bookings or special occasions, this can save a diner having to phone multiple restaurants trying to find an open table.

“Diners can also view their upcoming bookings; edit and share the booking details with others; save their credit card details to make payment of future reservation deposits easier, and save a list of their favourite restaurants or restaurants they would like to visit in the future.

“We hope to get the Dineplan app into every diner’s pocket as the go-to method for making restaurant reservations in South Africa. ‘We have a lot more exciting ideas and functionality that we will add to the app in the future, which will continue to increase the convenience provided to diners and restaurants.”

From fine-dining to franchise feasts
While Dineplan initially started with top-tier fine dining establishments as clients, the fast-growing company now caters for restaurants of all types and sizes.

“Dineplan has evolved a lot over the years and continues to do so,” said Rose. “The tech world rapidly changes, and you need to constantly challenge yourself and your product to ensure you are offering the best solution.
“We have made the software extremely diverse and completely customisable to suit any restaurant client. We now
have all types of restaurants using Dineplan, from the number one in the country, The Test Kitchen, to Spurs and everything in between.”

Whitfield explained how the software and app are greatly beneficial to the restaurant as well as the diner.
‘There are so many benefits for restaurants, including online bookings, SMS functionality, reduction in no-shows, database creation, table management, and the list goes on.

“I would say the number one benefit for any restaurant is that using Dineplan positions them well for the future and the ever-changing market. “Online booking forms a significant part to this as everyone and everything is moving online, and restaurants simply have to offer instant online bookings if they are going to survive in the future.

“The other significant area is building a database of their customers. Technology is advancing at such a rate, and to be able to benefit best from this, you need data.”

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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SENTECH appoints Tebogo Leshope as new COO

SENTECH appoints Tebogo Leshope as new COO

Tebogo Leshope, newly appointed Chief Operations Officer of SENTECH.

SENTECH has appointed Tebogo Leshope as the Chief Operations Officer effective. Having achieved its fifth consecutive clean audit, the company is stringent on its leadership excellence requirement. Tebogo has been with SENTECH for the past 19 years, coming through the ranks of SENTECH. He has accumulated achievements whilst being SENTECH DNA for almost two decades, and the evolution of the broadcast network distribution landscape.

He possesses Telecommunications experience, with proven leadership capabilities on highly complex Operations and Telecommunications projects. He has successfully managed complex technology projects, developed technology operating models and led operations as an Executive at SENTECH.

Tebogo is qualified in Electrical Engineering, with a Bachelor of Technology from University of Johannesburg, Project Management from UNISA and is a registered professional with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), South African Institute of Electrical Engineers(SAIEE) and the Institute of Directors Southern Africa (IoDSA).

“As Tebogo takes on the COO responsibilities, we are positive that he will provide SENTECH with core operations leadership, driving operational excellence, business growth and migration of core platforms to digital,” says Sentech CEO, Mlamli Booi.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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Changes to South African VAT regulations to include software and electronic services

Changes to South African VAT regulations to include software and electronic services

Changes to South African VAT regulations to include software and electronic services. (image: Shutterstock)

Before 2014 the supply of inbound electronic services required the South African recipient to declare VAT on these services. That didn’t work so well. So, with effect from 1 June 2014, the VAT Act was amended and regulations were introduced which changed the way that certain imported electronic services were to be taxed.

The onus shifted from the South African consumer to the off-shore supplier of the services. However, following Budget Reviews and Minister Gigaba’s Budget speech in February 2018, changes have again been proposed to the VAT regulations that are intended to remove uncertainties and broaden the scope of electronic services. Clearly, Government sees the supply of electronic services by foreign companies as an area that should fall within the South African VAT net and the draft regulations go a long way in achieving this.

According to National Treasury, the current regulations limit the scope of electronic services that are taxable. Under the amended regulations the intention is to widen the scope of the regulations to apply to all ‘services’ as defined in the VAT Act that are provided electronically. In doing so, the policy intention is to reduce the risk of distortions in trade between foreign suppliers and domestic suppliers where VAT is one of the reasons for such distortions.

The proposed, and much wider, definition of electronic services will include any services supplied by means of an electronic agent, electronic communication or the internet for any consideration…’ but excluding educational services that are regulated by an educational authority in an export country and telecommunications services. Cloud computing, software supplies, anti-virus, online advertising, broadcasting, gaming, online consulting and training services would all now fall within electronic services. No distinction is made between business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions.

Should you be a foreign supplier of any electronic services to a South African resident who has an address in South Africa and payment originates from a South African bank, then where the value of your electronic supplies exceeds R50 000 in any 12 month period you will be required to register as a VAT vendor in South Africa and levy VAT on those services going forward. In practice, a foreign supplier can apply for registration via electronic mail and is not required to neither open a South African bank account nor appoint of a South African resident representative vendor.

It has also been proposed by National Treasury that in order to broaden the scope even further amendments are planned to specifically deal with ‘intermediaries’ and ‘platforms’. The idea being where suppliers provide electronic services using the electronic platform of another person (an intermediary) that person will be deemed to be the supplier for VAT purposes where that person facilitates the supply of the electronic services and is responsible for, amongst other things, the issuing of the invoice and the collection of the payment. This would not include those intermediaries that are only facilitating payment, such as pure payment platforms.

The VAT regulations are still in draft form and open for public comment until 22 March 2108. The Regulations are intended to come into effect on 1 October 2018.

As such, foreign businesses providing electronic services to South African consumers that were previously not required to register for VAT in South Africa may not be so fortunate once the proposed regulations come into effect. It would be sage advice to consider the services you provide in light of the new VAT provisions.

By Conor McFadden – partner at Fasken

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Unlocking Enterprise systems using voice

Unlocking Enterprise systems using voice

Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer at Amazon Web Services.

Amazon is heavily invested in machine learning (ML), and is developing new tools to help developers build, train, and deploy ML models. The power of ML is in its ability to unlock a new set of capabilities that create value for consumers and businesses. A great example of this is the way we are using ML to deal with one of the world’s biggest and most tangled datasets: human speech.

Voice-driven conversation has always been the most natural way for us to communicate. Conversations are personal and they convey context, which helps us to understand each other. Conversations continue over time, and develop history, which in turn builds richer context. The challenge was that technology wasn’t capable of processing real human conversation.

The interfaces to Amazons digital system have been dictated by the capabilities of our computer systems—keyboards, mice, graphical interfaces, remotes, and touch screens. Touch made things easier; it let us tap on screens to get the app that we wanted. But what if touch isn’t possible or practical? Even when it is, the proliferation of apps has created a sort of “app fatigue”. This essentially forces the company to hunt for the app that they need, and often results in the company not using many of the apps that they already have. None of these approaches are particularly natural. As a result, they fail to deliver a truly seamless and customer-centric experience that integrates our digital systems into our analog lives.

Voice becomes a game changer

Using your voice is powerful because it’s spontaneous, intuitive, and enables you to interact with technology in the most natural way possible. It may well be considered the universal user interface. When you use your voice, you don’t need to adapt and learn a new user interface. Voice interfaces don’t need to be application-centric, so you don’t have to find an app to accomplish the task that you want. All of these benefits make voice a game changer for interacting with all kinds of digital systems.

Until 2-3 years ago we did not have the capabilities to process voice at scale and in real time. The availability of large-scale voice training data, the advances made in software with processing engines such as Caffe, MXNet and Tensflow, and the rise of massively parallel compute engines with low-latency memory access, such as the Amazon EC2 P3 instances have made voice processing at scale a reality.

Today, the power of voice is most commonly used in the home or in cars to do things like play music, shop, control smart home features, and get directions. A variety of digital assistants are playing a big role here. When we released Amazon Alexa, our intelligent, cloud-based voice service, we built its voice technology on the AWS Natural Language Processing platform powered by ML algorithms. Alexa is constantly learning, and she has tens of thousands of skills that extend beyond the consumer space. But by using the stickiness of voice, we think there are even more scenarios that can be unlocked at work.

Helping more people and organisations use voice

People interact with many different applications and systems at work. So why aren’t voice interfaces being used to enable these scenarios? One impediment is the ability to manage voice-controlled interactions and devices at scale, and we are working to address this with Alexa for Business. Alexa for Business helps companies voice-enable their spaces, corporate applications, people, and customers.

To use voice in the workplace, you really need three things. The first is a management layer, which is where Alexa for Business plays. Second, you need a set of APIs to integrate with your IT apps and infrastructure, and third is having voice-enabled devices everywhere.

Voice interfaces are a paradigm shift, and we’ve worked to remove the heavy lifting associated with integrating Alexa voice capabilities into more devices. For example, Alexa Voice Service (AVS), a cloud-based service that provides APIs to interface with Alexa, enables products built using AVS to have access to Alexa capabilities and skills.

We’re also making it easy to build skills for the things you want to do. This is where the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Skills Store can help both companies and developers. Some organisations may want to control who has access to the skills that they build. In those cases, Alexa for Business allows people to create a private skill that can only be accessed by employees in your organisation. In just a few months, our customers have built hundreds of private skills that help voice-enabled employees do everything from getting internal news briefings to asking what time their help desk closes.

Voice-enabled spaces

Just like Alexa is making smart homes easier, the same is possible in the workplace. Alexa can control the environment, help you find directions, book a room, report an issue, or find transportation. One of the biggest applications of voice in the enterprise is conference rooms and we’ve built some special skills in this area to allow people to be more productive.

For example, many meetings fail to start on time. It’s usually a struggle to find the dial-in information, punch in the numbers, and enter a passcode every time a meeting starts. With Alexa for Business, the administrator can configure the conference rooms and integrate calendars to the devices. When you walk into a meeting, all you have to say is “Alexa, start my meeting”. Alexa for Business automatically knows what the meeting is from the integrated calendar, mines the dial-in information, dials into the conference provider, and starts the meeting. Furthermore, you can also configure Alexa for Business to automatically lower the projector screen, dim the lights, and more. People who work from home can also take advantage of these capabilities. By using Amazon Echo in their home office and asking Alexa to start the meeting, employees who have Alexa for Business in their workplace are automatically connected to the meeting on their calendar.

Voice-enabled applications

Voice interfaces will really hit their stride when we begin to see more voice-enabled applications. Today, Alexa can interact with many corporate applications including Salesforce, Concur, ServiceNow, and more. IT developers who want to take advantage of voice interfaces can enable their custom apps using the Alexa Skills Kit, and make their skills available just for their organisation. There are a number of agencies and SIs that can help with this, and there are code repositories with code examples for AWS services.

We’re seeing a lot of interesting use cases with Alexa for Business from a wide range of companies. Take WeWork, a provider of shared workspaces and services. WeWork has adopted Alexa, managed by Alexa for Business, in their everyday workflow. They have built private skills for Alexa that employees can use to reserve conference rooms, file help tickets for their community management team, and get important information on the status of meeting rooms. Alexa for Business makes it easy for WeWork to configure and deploy Alexa-enabled devices, and the Alexa skills that they need to improve their employees’ productivity.

The next generation of corporate systems and applications will be built using conversational interfaces, and we’re beginning to see this happen with customers using Alexa for Business in their workplace.

When it comes to enabling voice capabilities at home and in the workplace, Amazon is here to help you build.

By Werner Vogels, CTO at

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