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AI to Push Smartphones Purchases Rebound This Year- Accenture

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After dropping to a three-year low last year, consumer purchases of smartphones are expected to rebound this year, fueled by better security, new functions, improved performance and device refresh schedules, a global Accenture survey finds.

The survey of 26,000 consumers in 26 countries – whose findings are summarized in Accenture’s new Dynamic Digital Consumers – reveals consumer demand for specific types of connected devices, such as smartwatches and fitness monitors, will remain sluggish this year due to high prices and persistent concerns about the security and privacy of their personal data.

The survey also shows consumers are increasingly embracing artificial intelligence capabilities such as digital voice assistants.

Resurgence of Smartphone Market
More than half (54 percent) of consumers surveyed said they plan to buy a smartphone in the next year, up from 48 percent in last year’s survey.

Chinese consumers are the main drivers of this upturn, with three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents in China saying they intend to purchase a smartphone in the coming 12 months, up from less than two-thirds (61 percent) in last year’s survey.

The number of respondents in India and the United States who said they plan to buy a smartphone in the coming 12 months also increased by double digits over last year, to 79 percent in India (from 68 percent last year) and 52 percent in the United States (from 38 percent last year).

Among all consumers surveyed, the leading driver of purchase intent is the ability to access the newest and most innovative features and functions, cited by 51 percent of respondents in this year’s survey, compared with only 41 percent last year.

Another reason consumers are opting to buy new smartphones is inadequate performance of their existing devices, cited by 45 percent of customers this year – up from 33 percent last year.

“Improved features and falling prices are key reasons consumers around the world are signaling a desire to buy new smartphones,” said David Sovie, global managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech business. “Growing acceptance of services powered by artificial intelligence, such as voice assistants, is also fueling this market upswing. 2017 will be the year when artificial intelligence goes mainstream in consumer devices.”

Strong interest in AI-powered devices and services
For the first time, the annual survey polled consumers about their intentions to buy digital voice-enabled assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Powered by artificial intelligence, the products recognize a human’s voice commands, such as ‘Turn on the light’ and ‘Play music’ and answer questions such as ‘What time is it?’ and ‘What is the temperature outside?’ While only 4 percent of the respondents said they own such a device today, two-thirds (65 percent) of owners said they use their device on a regular basis, showing strong acceptance of this new technology.

Voice assistants on smartphones
Voice assistants on Smartphone are also becoming increasingly popular as the AI technology powering these services has improved dramatically.

Younger consumers are leading the adoption, with more than four in five (84 percent) of 14-to-17 year olds saying they either use this technology today or are interested in doing so.

Consumers are also willing to embrace a wide array of potential AI-powered, personalized services, with a majority of respondents saying they are interested in personal health assistants (cited by 60 percent), smart trip assistants (59 percent) and entertainment advisors (51 percent).

Personal data concerns are widespread
Many consumers remain uneasy about securing their personal data, much of which is housed on smartphones or in the cloud. Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) said they are concerned about the security of financial transactions such as buying online.

Similarly, 89 percent are uneasy that companies or systems they have not approved would get access to their financial information.

The encouraging news for smartphone manufacturers is that consumers trust device manufacturers with their personal data more than they trust telecom providers, banks and search-engine companies.

More than one-third (37 percent) said they trust device manufacturers, up from 31 percent last year. By contrast, 36 percent trust telecom providers with their data – a drop from 42 percent last year, and only 13 percent trust search engine providers, down from 23 percent last year.

Stalling demand for connected devices
Although smartphone purchase intent is on a growth trajectory this year, the same does not hold true for other connected devices. For example, only 14 percent said they plan to buy a wearable fitness monitor and smartwatch this year, virtually unchanged from last year (at 13 percent).

“The ‘insecurity of things’ is a major industry challenge,” added Sovie. “There are widespread consumer concerns about the privacy of their personal data being stolen or compromised. And relative to the value delivered, prices of these connected devices remain too high. Market momentum for these devices will stall unless the industry overcomes these obstacles. If that happens, market demand could accelerate quickly.”

The survey findings provide evidence that this could happen for connected devices. Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents said they plan to buy a home connected surveillance camera within the next five years, compared with only 10 percent who said they plan to do so in the next year.

In addition, 44 percent intend to buy a wearable fitness monitor in the next five years, versus 12 percent who said they will do so in the next year, and 42 percent said they plan to buy a smart home thermostat over the next five years, compared with only 8 percent who said they will do so this year.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world.

So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Sophos Identifies Top Ransomware Families in Africa

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Cyber security vendor Sophos has identified the top ransomware families that affected Africa in 2017.

According to Sophos, the Ceber ransomware accounted for 80% of attacks in Africa, followed by WannaCry (17%), and others like Jaff (1%), Locky (1%) and Petya (0.5%).

One of the most active kinds of ransomware out there, Cerber encrypts the files of infected users and demands money in exchange for enabling access to their files. It works even if a user is not connected to the Internet, so they can’t stop it by unplugging their PC.

Cerber, sold as a ransomware kit on the Dark Web, remains a dangerous threat, says Sophos, adding the creators of Cerber continuously update the code and charge a percentage of the ransom that the “middle-men” attackers receive from victims.

Regular new features make Cerber not only an effective attack tool, but perennially available to cyber criminals, the cyber security firm notes.

“This Dark Web business model is unfortunately working and, similar to a legitimate company, is likely funding the ongoing development of Cerber. We can assume the profits are motivating the authors to maintain the code,” says Dorka Palotay, SophosLabs security researcher and contributor to the ransomware analysis in the SophosLabs 2018 Malware Forecast.

The WannaCry ransomware attack was a May 2017 worldwide cyber attack by the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm, which targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin crypto-currency.

“Looking at the whole world, WannaCry was responsible for 45.3% of the ransomware attacks, while in Africa this value is only 17%,” Palotay says.

“In Africa, clearly Cerber was the biggest ransomware threat this year, since 80% of the ransomware lookups was caused by Cerber, while this number is only 44.2% if we look at the whole world. Regarding the smaller families, the results are very similar.”

The SophosLabs 2018 Malware Forecast report recaps ransomware and other cyber security trends based on data collected from Sophos customer computers worldwide from 1 April to 3 October 2017.

One key finding shows that while ransomware predominately attacked Windows systems in the last six months, Android, Linux and MacOS platforms were not immune.

“Ransomware has become platform-agnostic. Ransomware mostly targets Windows computers, but this year, SophosLabs saw an increased amount of crypto-attacks on different devices and operating systems used by our customers worldwide,” says Palotay.

She notes that for the first time Sophos saw ransomware with worm-like characteristics, which contributed to the rapid expansion of WannaCry.

“This ransomware took advantage of a known Windows vulnerability to infect and spread to computers, making it hard to control.

“Even though our customers are protected against it and WannaCry has tapered off, we still see the threat because of its inherent nature to keep scanning and attacking computers. We’re expecting cyber criminals to build upon this ability to replicate as seen in WannaCry and NotPetya, and this is already evident with Bad Rabbit ransomware, which shows many similarities to NotPetya.”

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Cisco urges Retailers on Network System Skills ahead of Black Friday

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Cisco has urged Nigeria retailers to equip their employees with basic network system skills as Black Friday and Cyber Monday begin today.

According to Alfie Hamid, Regional Manager for Corporate Affairs for Cisco Africa, ‘Many retailers have missed empowering their own workforces with, for example, digital collaboration tools, real-time customer insights, and virtual assistance. A workforce that is armed with relevant knowledge and insights is also essential to improving the in-store customer experience, a key differentiator for bricks-and-mortar retailers over their online rivals.’

According to research from Cisco, employee productivity technologies can deliver the greatest value for increasing efficiency, optimising the checkout process and improving worker collaboration. Investments in these areas also contribute to improved shopper experiences and increased loyalty. Just 6% of retailers’ 2016 investment priorities were focused on employee productivity use cases, despite research indicating that use cases deliver the greatest return on investment for retailers; in other words, digitisation is a $187 billion (roughly R2,6 trillion) opportunity, according to Cisco.

“The key initiatives that improve employee productivity all rely on a network that understands how people interact, can be customised easily, and can control access irrespective of the device that the employee is using – all things that today’s retail employees demand,” Hamid says.

In retail, investments in workforce digitisation deliver value to operations, the labour equation, and talent retention. Since all of these support new and compelling customer experiences, digitising the workforce enables a value chain that is critical to retail success.

“A focus on technology investments that empower employees takes on a whole new meaning in Nigeria, which already struggles to overcome education and training challenges,” Hamid says. “With digitisation, companies have an opportunity to improve skills across the board in the retail industry, which will contribute hugely to the growth of the country’s economy, whether on Black Friday or throughout the year.”

 

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Black Friday: Yudala Records Unprecedented Spike In Online Traffic

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By peter oluka

Yudala, Nigeria’s pioneer online and offline e-commerce company is recording an unprecedented spike in online traffic  as eager shoppers thronged the company’s website www.yudala.comfrom midnight to be the first to take advantage of the company’s Black Friday offers.

This year’s edition of Black Friday, a globally celebrated shopping festival, is being marked officially today, Friday November 24th, 2017.

Insights garnered from the shopping activity on the Yudala website show that online traffic on www.yudala.com commenced a steady spike from 11:49pm on Thursday night as early bird shoppers began to lay in wait for the official commencement of the Black Friday midnight rush for deals.

From 12am, traffic on the Yudala website had grossed over 50,000 hits, with shoppers who placed their orders between the hours of 12am – 1am enjoying an additional incentive of free shipping of their orders nationwide. Furthermore, Yudala had made available over 500,000 Early Bird deals on its website for shoppers who place their orders between the hours of 12am – 11:59am today, Friday November 24th.

Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, Vice President at Yudala disclosed that the company was determined to make it a memorable Black Friday for its teeming customers.

“If you are yet to visit the website www.yudala.com, now is the time to do so.  We had Mystery Products up on the website from 12am at 99% off so, from midnight on Friday, we were already processing loads of orders from shoppers who were taking advantage of our early bird deals. Electronics, mobile phones, home appliances, wines and groceries, consumer goods and computing products are among some of the most ordered items. Remember, the Early Bird Deals run till 11:59am today so there is still ample opportunity for many Nigerians to enjoy our unmatched offerings.

“If you miss the early bird deals, then you can take advantage of our Lunch Time Deals which runs from 12pm till 4:59pm today and if you fall into the class of those who prefer to do their Black Friday shopping later in the day, then you can enjoy our Sunset Deals from 5pm till 11:59pm. Also, shoppers who place their orders on the stroke of 11:11am or 12:12pm will get free tickets to the Yudala Christmas party.

“You also stand a chance to spin a wheel of fortune at six Yudala stores in Lagos today to walk home with a free gift. Simply visit any of the Yudala stores in Bode Thomas, Surulere; Admiralty Way, Lekki; The Palms Shopping Mall; Medical Road, Ikeja; Redemption Crescent in Gbagada or the one at Cherub Mall on Lekki-Epe Expressway to experience what Black Friday is all about, courtesy of Yudala.

“No other company offers you all of these mouth-watering options for Black Friday: best prices, mega deals and genuine products. With Yudala, You Live Well,” he concluded.

Interestingly, Yudala is also adding an extra dimension on social media for its walk-in customers.

For shoppers who find their way to the Yudala Experience Store at The Palms Shopping Mall in Lekki today, there is a unique opportunity to follow the “Make a wish” live feed on Instagram at the store.

Yudala has generated loads of frenzy on its Instagram live feed where the company is giving followers a chance to make a wish and see it fulfilled. Many lucky followers have won amazing freebies including laptops, mobile phones, electronics, shopping vouchers and other exciting give-away items through this medium.

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