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Is The Future Of AI Around the Corner? Computing Power Suppliers Are Shifting Gears

Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Harald Merckel

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing everything from the information we see on our Facebook feeds, to improving diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

According to McKinsey, it has the potential to create an additional $13 trillion in global economic output by 2030. Governments and start-ups alike are scrambling to ensure they are in a position to enjoy the economic benefits that AI will bring.

However, despite the apparent potential, there’s one significant bottleneck — the supply of computational power required to develop and drive AI products and solutions.

At present, cloud-based providers of computing resources are striving to keep up with the pace of development in power hungry AI. Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Challenge 1 – Supply and Demand

AI relies on data and lots of it. As such, the computational demand of AI is growing — one report estimates that the amount of compute used by AI currently has a three and a half month doubling time.

As things stand, AI developers are dependent on computing capacity from the $247 billion cloud computing industry. This industry is dominated by four corporate IT firms – Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM, collectively known as the ‘Big Four’. These companies rely on their vast centralised data centres to keep the world’s cloud computing services running.

In an attempt to meet the growing demand for AI computing services, investment in data centres is also growing at a startling pace. Computing firms spent $27 billion in the first quarter of 2018, with most of that expenditure thought to be directed into developing data centres. Compare this with the $74 billion spent in 2017, and the pace of growth is evident.

The question is, how long can the computing firms continue to keep up with demand using the traditional datacenter model?

In an attempt to stem demand, the big IT firms are increasing their costs.

With AI services requiring massive computational power before they can go to market, the rising cost of computing risks stifling innovation, particularly for smaller developers.

Related: The Curious Case Of AI And Legal Liability

Challenge 2 – Environmental Sustainability

If the only way to meet demand is to build more data centres, then this means more electricity-hungry machines. It’s reported that 2% of all CO2 emissions globally emerge from the datacenter industry — more than the airline industry.

Just this month, the United States of America’s Department of Energy reported that data centres in their country accounted for around 2% of the overall energy consumption.

While owners are investigating green energy alternatives, the fact remains that more data centres will result in higher energy consumption.

google-one-of-the-big-four

Challenge 3 – A single point of failure

Amazon famously brought down a number of large websites last year when an employee accidentally took more servers offline than intended. That event sparked a domino effect that was felt globally.

It’s natural that single points of failure raise the risk of an incident having a more substantial impact. With cloud data provided by just four companies from a limited number of data centres, that risk is always present.

A Quantum of Solace?  

Chinese marketplace Alibaba is also in the business of cloud computing, albeit not yet one of the ‘Big Four’ However, its representatives have clearly stated that the company has market leader Amazon firmly in its sights.

Earlier this year, Alibaba launched its first cloud quantum computer, capable of processing 11 quantum bits (qubit). A typical computer chip is binary, meaning it can only process values of 0 or 1 at any given moment depending on its speed. A quantum computer is capable of handling both at the same time, meaning a single qubit can participate in many millions of processes.

Alibaba has pledged to continue development in this area, having already invested $15.5 billion at the end of last year. IBM is also firmly invested in quantum computing, having launched its own quantum computer last year. Quantum computers could ultimately do away with the need for centralised data centres.

From Cloud Computing to Distributed Computing

While some commentators have predicted a wait of five to ten years for quantum computing solutions to cope with demand, a few start-ups are working to meet the requirements of cloud computing on a shorter timeline. One start-up has devised a scalable solution, which it says will be up and running as early as 2019.

Tatau, which calls itself the “Uber of Computing,” has designed a platform which essentially creates a global supercomputer to harness the joint capacity of already existing GPU computing capacity.

By utilising a resource that already exists, the company claims it can offer cloud computing that is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more scalable than current solutions. Moreover, a decentralised model doesn’t have a single point of failure, reducing the risk of downtime or hacks.

Tatau’s decentralised network taps into the computing capacity that sits outside of data centres. The company has designed a blockchain-driven marketplace where owners of GPU hardware can sell under-utilised computing power to a buyer. By utilising latent capacity, this solution provides a way for owners of hardware to receive better returns on their investment, and provide access to reliable, cost-effective compute previously unavailable to AI developers.

Related: Can Computers Replace Human Accountants? We Doubt They Can

The Future for AI Development

Given the growing demand for AI services, the computing sector needs to find a way to meet the need for computing services. Given the challenges inherent in the current datacenter model, it seems likely that quantum or distributed computing could ultimately take off.

The question will be, are the current ‘Big Four’ market players ready to compete on a different playing field?

Harald Merckel is a freelance writer whose primary focuses are business, e-gaming and marketing. Although he loves tech gadgetry as much as the next guy, Merkel prefers to write with pen on paper. Merkel has a B.A. in Business and Communication from HWR-Berlin, where he was active in the Studentenwerk Berlin organisation. He has been a proud Berlin resident since the late 1990s.

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BEE

LFP Training – The ‘Agents’ Of Transformation

Implemented correctly, BEE has the potential to change the current status of South Africa’s economy. Add to that LFP Group’s focus on helping corporates to boost employee skills and engagement and upskill disadvantaged people across the country, and Louis Pulzone is aiming to make a real difference.

LFP Training

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LFP training

LFP Training is the leading provider of BEE aligned turnkey skills development training in South Africa, delivering innovative, industry-first learnership programmes to educate and upskill abled and disabled individuals in line with the BEE codes of good conduct.

LFP Training’s fully accredited learnerships are strictly aligned to BEE guidelines and allow companies to implement skills development.

To date, more than 700 companies have actively benefited from LFP Training’s solutions, reaching their desired target spend at a fraction of the cost. This solution is the most cost-effective way of implementing BEE initiatives while gaining maximum points.

The team at LFP Training comprises industry experts and combines years of experience with a passion for transformation, education and making a difference.

Today, both unemployed and employed, disabled and able-bodied people in all industries are actively benefiting and contributing to society, thanks to LFP Training’s turnkey training solutions and strategic partnerships. 

In South Africa’s tough economic environment, where unemployment levels are so high, how is LFP an ‘agent of transformation’?

It’s no secret that times are still tough in South Africa. Our economic inequality is one of the highest in the world and unemployment is still a massive concern.

While this is nothing new, the good news is that it has forced us to become more resilient and find new strategies. At a time like this, we need to invest in our people and kick-start the economy again. At LFP Group, we look to new strategies, growth and the upliftment of people to help shape the future. Being agents of transformation means that we look towards solutions for a better South Africa for tomorrow.

We also recognise that government cannot do everything. Our goal as LFP Group is to be a leader in our industry, helping government achieve its goals for reducing unemployment. Our aim is to forge ahead with a great public-private partnership strategy.

Related: Black-Owned Businesses Need BEE Compliance

What role do you play in transforming South Africa? Why is this important?

With the shortfall in education, responsibility has fallen on corporates to provide opportunities and to upskill employees. Many companies are filling the gap between what has been previously learnt and what is required in a practical job function.

By partnering with corporates, LFP can help companies to achieve their BEE objectives and gain access to rebates, while providing education in the form of learnerships. The stipend provided by corporates to learners is invaluable in mobilising learners to grow, learn and fill roles, while having financial security.

By providing a turnkey solution, all parties benefit from our all-encompassing approach — both on and off campus.

Each solution is accredited and optimised to ensure that both the learner and the business benefit from the skills acquired. Our offering has expanded over the years based on demand for further skills development and quality education.

As LFP Group we do not only consider transformation as a process of change and opportunities for individual employment; we see it as a way of transforming attitudes and creating hope for a nation that truly needs and aspires to be that country that does not live in the past, but acts in the future. We believe that transformation is the duty not only of state and politics, but every South African. We started by transforming our Group first, and now our vision has shifted to our country.

Why did you launch LFP? What was your goal, and how have you realised that goal?

Having recognised a critical gap for skills development to help address unemployment in South Africa’s ever-changing economic landscape, I founded turnkey training provider LFP Training in 2013.

The company’s innovative programmes are aimed at educating and upskilling people who have disabilities and who are unemployed, in line with the country’s BEE Codes of Good Conduct. More than this, I am truly committed to transforming not just the employment and skills development side, but my country’s quest for transformation. LFP Group is a platform where I could achieve that objective. I also believe in creating a winning team that echoes my vision and shares my passion to deliver that goal.

With more than a decade’s experience in the education industry, I am passionate about making a difference through education and saw a gap in the market for innovative training programmes aimed at educating and upskilling. By partnering with corporates, we have trained more than

7 000 learners with an excess of 700 clients paying R70 million in stipends directly to learners in stipends or salaries; this has resulted in a 100% pass rate in their BEE verification audits. This has a tangible impact on unemployment in South Africa.

Why is investing in people the single most important thing that businesses can do?

Addressing staff development and training is often low on the list of business priorities — but the relationship an organisation has with its employees can directly impact commercial success. Continuously evaluating, refining and improving your greatest asset — your people — can maximise their potential and bring wider business benefits; not least that individuals are happier and more motivated, and therefore more productive. In a recent survey on adult learning, 41% of respondents indicated that further education helped them improve the skills they needed to do their jobs.

Continually training staff means more of them will have up-to-date and relevant skills, which are valued and respected by the industry.

Continuing to develop staff not only adds value to the company, strengthens the workforce and improves workplace efficiency — it also improves job satisfaction, encourages loyalty and ensures commitment to the success of the business. Another final piece of our human investment capital is adding value to our internal staff, and that of all the clients and leaders of the companies we serve. LFP Group has created a specialised IP and as a leader in the industry I believe that we must educate and invest in the people we’re associated with.

Related: Scoring BEE Points

How should business owners and executive teams view training?

Education is a fundamental right, and everyone should have access to it. With a passion for education, I always look to a quote by Nelson Mandela, a true advocate for education: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

This could not be truer. The private sector is having to fill the gaps in education and companies need to innovate to provide opportunities. In the fields of STEM there is a critical skills shortage, and we need to work together to empower and advance our country and its people. One of the most critical tasks we’ve focused on is training the leaders of industry.

Many business owners, CEOs and senior management, even shareholders of corporates, fear the mention of BEE and Transformation. The reason is simple: South Africa is not transformed enough, and this is part of our vision. We must ensure that as much as we service our clients and provide the services LFP Group has set out to do, we are slowly but surely penetrating the leadership market to educate and prepare them for transformation.

The policies of BEE are constantly in the spotlight because of the opportunities it can provide. By embracing it, companies and people are able to benefit from it wholly.

What is the role of BEE in South Africa? Why should businesses embrace it?

If implemented correctly, BEE has the potential to change the current status of our economy. B-BBEE addresses transformation in South Africa through ownership and management in companies, upskilling of employed and unemployed people and growth of the economy and smaller enterprises through enterprise and supplier development.

Investment in B-BBEE and compliance creates massive business opportunities for your organisation in the form of public sector contracts and business from other B-BBEE compliant companies. This provides a competitive edge.

As LFP Group we recognise that BEE and transformation in the labour and corporate sector, will be with us for a long time. As an industry leader we must be on top of our game and always be at the forefront of knowing our industry, and more vitally what is to come. This will allow us to address the historical imbalances and assure that all citizens in our country have skills and an opportunity for a long-lasting and sustainable job.

What does LFP Campus do?

The LFP Campus is a blended online learnership platform that makes it possible for clients to gain substantial points towards their skills development spend in line with the BEE codes.

Applicable to all industries, this popular offering avoids downtime and loss of productivity, while supporting flexibility, thanks to a blended online offering which can be undertaken outside of working hours.

LFP Training has not only aligned its online initiative to the BEE codes but also made it possible for clients to do so at a fraction of the cost — all while being eligible for government initiatives such as tax rebates, youth subsidies and other grants.

Clients are now able to claim the salary of an enrolled employee for the full duration of the learnership without compromising on their business’s operational requirements.

Clients can also claim more than 500% of the actual spend towards their skills development target spend.

LFP Group’s offerings

Youth Employment Services Implementation Programme

A staggering six million youth aged between 18 and 34 are still unemployed and this is the exact reason why LFP Group is coming to the fore.

With the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative — officially gazetted on 28 August 2018 — aimed at creating one million jobs within the next three years, companies can now earn additional BEE benefits.

The LFP Group, in support of the YES programme, recognises the critical role that South Africa’s youth play in shaping the economy and our country. LFP now offers YES programme management implementation to benefit clients and individuals.

The offering includes:

  • Comprehensive assessment of the employer to determine YES eligibility and management of the entire project.
  • Recruitment of the youth and full registration of recruited youth onto the YES initiative.
  • Registration of the client on the YES initiative.
  • Coaching, mentorship, a personal development plan and key performance indicators.
  • Access to permanent placement opportunities for youth not absorbed upon completion of the YES initiative after 12 months.
  • Compilation of verification file containing supporting evidence for YES and B-BBEE recognition.

Related: BBBEE Employee Share Schemes – Should I Or Not?

LFP Permanent Placements

LFP’s attentive team of trained experts source talent in line with a company’s B-BBEE scale and predominantly recruit for roles in the fields of administration, healthcare, technology, retail and start-up hiring.

With a clear understanding of each clients’ needs and objectives, LFP Permanent Placements has a proven track record with a project completion rate of 97% and the remaining 3% attributed to unforeseen circumstances such as project shutdowns, health issues, relocation etc.

LFP Payroll

More than learnerships, LFP prides itself in providing its clients with a turnkey solution. For this reason, LFP not only handles recruitment, training, facilitation and paperwork for learners, but also takes care of outsourced payroll requirements.

LFP Group has a dedicated and trained administration team to handle the day-to-day management of a company’s learners’ stipends, temporary employees and permanent employees.

BEE CONNEX

Changing and adding suppliers is a complicated and tedious task, but as a company’s BEE needs evolve to meet the demands of new legislation and accommodate further company growth, the need for more knowledgeable and reputable suppliers becomes inevitable.

BEE-Connex is a first of its kind app, changing the way South Africa does business in the BEE industry.

It’s as simple as downloading the BEE-Connex app and signing up to the biggest and most reputable network in South Africa. Here clients receive a host of benefits including:

  • Enjoying hassle-free BEE.
  • Getting connected to the right supplier in just a few simple steps.
  • Gaining access to a comprehensive network of verified suppliers who understand and can meet your specific needs.
  • An easy, cost-effective solution to gain maximum points.

Visit www. lfptraining.co.za for more information

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Company Posts

Choose A Job You Love, And You Will Never Have To Work A Day In Your Life

Join Col’Cacchio’s 26-year-long love story.

Col'Cacchio

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Vital Stats

  • Joining fee: R125 000
  • Monthly management fee: 6% of turnover
  • Monthly marketing fee: 2% of turnover
  • Total investment: approx. R2.5m to R4.2m (turnkey) Size: 140m2 to 350m2
  • Unencumbered cash (before loan): 50% of total investment

(Above figures exclude VAT) 

“Owning your own restaurant is like owning your own future.” – Dominic Dempers, Franchisee Durbanville, Belvedere & Meadowridge Cape Town

We’re looking for passionate franchisees who will love our brand as much as we do.

Why you should join this delicious success story

colcacchio-pizza-franchise-dessert

  • Assistance with site selection & lease negotiation
  • Store design & build
  • Full training provided for management and staff
  • Marketing & operational support
  • Product innovation & menu development
  • Efficiency in all systems
  • Healthy margins.

Related: 300 Business Ideas To Inspire You Into Entrepreneurship

#FoodwithaStory

“Our journey started with a single restaurant on the foreshore with the aim to serve the very best pizza around” – Greg Mommsen, Business Developer Director

“Watching this brand grow and empowering people has been immensely rewarding. We have staff that have been with us for over 20 years. It’s like a family, we work hard, we laugh, we cry, we celebrate and of course, we eat a lot of pizza.” – Michael Terespolsky, Founder and Managing Director

“Becoming a franchisee is an amazing opportunity to join the family and become part of the Col’Cacchio success story. We’re 100% behind out franchises at every step, making sure that we all continue to learn and flourish” – Greg Mommsen, Business Developer Director 

“It has been filled with challenges along the way, but all the rewards have made every moment worth it.” – Michael Terespolsky, Founder and Managing Director

Related: Got An Awesome New Business Idea? Here’s What To Do Next

Visit www.colcacchio.co.za or call Tarryn Godley on 084 800 7264 and let’s get this adventure going.

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Company Posts

Travel At The Touch Of A Button

The revolutionary Travelit app has been developed for the global marketplace to meet your business travel needs.

Tourvest

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travel-app-with-tourvest

Travelit has launched an easy-to-use mobile app that simplifies the trip approval process, provides a full trip itinerary and assists in management of travel expenses.

“The app is designed in South Africa, for the African and global marketplace,” says Wayne Muirhead Chief Sales Officer at Travelit. “We have developed the app locally with our own developers, and opted not to use a white labelling solution.”

The app interface enables the requirements of travellers, approvers, users, as well as finance and procurement role players to be met so each trip is seamlessly planned and executed.

Stress-free financial administration

“Expense management is an integral part of the complete travel cost; businesses want to understand their complete travel bill,” says Wayne. This is why the app incorporates features that facilitate:

  • Capturing of photographs of receipts real-time
  • Immediate allocation of expenses to the correct description
  • Uploading expenses for workflow approval
  • Attachment of an expense to a travel trip, or generating a non-travel related expense.

Simplified trip approval process

In addition, approvers’ features enable simple visibility into the trip’s cost and details:

  • Approval of booking requests
  • Trip confirmation once trip has been successfully approved
  • Managing alerts — approval notifications, pre-trip notification as well as travel notifications
  • Out of office activation for approvers.

Related: How Travelit Makes Travelling Affordable For Small Businesses

Trip management made easy

With Travelit’s new app, travellers have the ability to update, create new profiles directly from their phones and update and store all their information, including:

  • Updating of profile details
  • Personal information
  • Visas, passports, meal types, seating preferences
  • Loyalty programmes.

As a traveller, when you are travelling, you require information, updates and access to your travel documentation in real time. The Trip Manager function provides you with this through the following functions:

  • View current, pending and past trips
  • Trip itinerary information
  • View trips that are awaiting approval
  • View supplier vouchers
  • Locate properties via the Map option
  • Boarding passes are available
  • Real-time alerts to travellers.

Related: Save Up To 25% On Your Travel Costs

Happy travels

“We have done a soft launch with the app and offered it to strategic users and clients within our ecosystem,” says Wayne. These corporates have enjoyed the functions within the app, such as:

  • Real time information for the traveller (itineraries, vouchers, boarding passes)
  • Approval notifications and the approval capability
  • Notifications
  • Contact information for the consultants after-hours, and assistance
  • Access to the traveller profile to ensure their data is updated and correct
  • Check-in to the airline.

The Travelit app is available in the Google Play Store and iOS Store. Travelit will make monthly app releases by offering users ongoing functionality and features.

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