Corporate SA not in love with 4IR

1 August 2019 Industrial (Industry), Integrated Solutions

The technologies that make up the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR) have yet to be adopted with any enthusiasm by South African enterprises.

This is a core finding of a new research study entitled Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa 2019: Enterprise uptake and expectations for emerging technologies, conducted by World Wide Worx in partnership with SYSPRO.

The research delved into current and planned uptake of emerging business technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.

“The most surprising finding was the lack of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, despite the marketing hype that suggests every large business is embracing it,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the 4IR research project. “Only 13% of corporate South Africa is currently using AI and, of the rest, 21% plan to adopt it in the next 12 to 24 months.”

A significant obstacle to adoption, the research reveals, is the cost of skills for implementing AI. Of those not using it, 43% cited cost as the key reason. Ironically, as awareness of AI grows in South Africa, enthusiasm seems to diminish.

“Traditionally, intended uptake of new technologies shot up once education, awareness and knowledge increased,” says Goldstuck. “Now, however, we are seeing the flipside of the coin. A year ago, 63% of those not using AI said they planned to use it in the future, and not a single company cited cost as a reason not to do so. A year and much hype later, the market seems to have woken up to the realities of obstacles like skills and cost, and the proportion of those planning to use it has plunged.”

By contrast, robotics – in both hardware and software – has moved to the forefront of corporate strategy. A technology called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which automates business processes through software ‘bots’, has become readily and cheaply available from numerous service providers, resulting in a robotics boom.

“We were astonished when we sifted through the data,” says Goldstuck. “A year ago, only 6% of South African enterprises were using robotics. Then came the RPA explosion. Now the figure stands at 37%.”

The industry sectors that have adopted robotics most enthusiastically also reveal the contrast in use cases between hardware- and software-based automation. The sector with the highest uptake, legal services – at a high 67% – is able to reap massive benefits from automating standard, routine and dull processes like searches for legal precedents. On the other hand, the next most active sector in robotics, mining, is focused on hardware automation of both dangerous and routine processes, like drilling and sorting.

“We’ve predicted for some time that the legal profession would be among the first to use AI and bots to take over and speed up routine tasks,” says Goldstuck. “This poses a challenge to the profession to allocate new roles to recent graduates that are the lifeblood of the industry. While this transition is under way, fewer positions will be available, and we will see a significant shift in skills requirements for entry-level positions. This, of course, is the fundamental challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The uptake of emerging technologies varies dramatically across technology categories and industry sectors. Virtual and augmented reality is used by a little more than a third of enterprises, but intended usage among the rest falls to below 10%. Blockchain, the technology for distributed ledgers that validates every step in a transaction process, is currently used by fewer than 10% of respondents.

The one stand-out sector, in which South Africa leads the world, is the Internet of Things (IoT). The study revealed near-unanimous usage, with 92% of enterprises having adopted IoT. However, this is largely a factor of the ubiquity of vehicle tracking and fleet management technology, which began as telematics, and has evolved into a sub-category of IoT.

“The combination of high usage and a strong increase in current and planned usage of IoT technology shows corporates are getting returns from existing IoT implementations,” says Goldstuck. “As the technology becomes cheaper to obtain and operate, smaller companies will have the ability to compete in productivity with much larger corporates.”

This is one of the key benefits of such emerging technologies, the study suggests: once the skills requirements are addressed, they become a commodity that any organisation of any size, from start-up to giant corporation, can leverage equally. For now, however, companies are having to make cautious choices. This is revealed in the finding that a mere 3,1% of enterprises use a combination of robotics and AI. Of the rest, only 3,6% plan to do so.

“The report reveals quite dramatically the extent to which corporate South Africa seems to have a clear sense of what it needs and doesn’t need from the emerging technologies,” says Goldstuck. “The fourth industrial revolution will be cherry-picked, based on what will differentiate a business, rather than representing wholesale take-up of technologies for their own sake.”

For more information go to www.worldwideworx.com





Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

City surveillance in South Africa
IDEMIA Government and Parastatal (Industry) CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring Integrated Solutions
Smart cities and their smarter, more responsible eye in the sky; a look at the video surveillance landscape in South Africa.

Read more...
Object monitoring technology
Dahua Technology South Africa Government and Parastatal (Industry) CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring Integrated Solutions Products
Powered by deep learning algorithms, the WizMind 5 Series can accurately detect six types of objects: luggage bag, backpack, box, shopping bag, bicycle and motorbike.

Read more...
AI-powered hardhat detection
Hikvision South Africa Industrial (Industry) CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring
Hardhats save lives, but only if people wear them. Intelligent, AI-powered hardhat cameras are helping to ensure workers in dangerous locations stay safe at all times.

Read more...
Smart technology to get sports fans safely back in stadiums
Axis Communications SA CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring Integrated Solutions Entertainment and Hospitality (Industry)
While everyone’s eager to get back in their seats, stadiums will have to make some significant changes in order to ensure the health and safety of live sports audiences.

Read more...
Broader view, lower costs and ‘virtual’ PTZs
CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring Integrated Solutions
Dallmeier announces Panomera multifocal sensor cameras with an enhanced integration into Milestone XProtect, offering users a range of new capabilities for observing and monitoring large areas and vast spatial contexts.

Read more...
Cybersecurity for operational technology: Part 3
Cyber Security Industrial (Industry)
According to a recent World Economic Report, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased our reliance on the global supply chain, while the Internet has accelerated the digitisation of business processes.

Read more...
Security for operational technology: Part 2
Editor's Choice Cyber Security Industrial (Industry)
The recent cyber-attack on Transnet is a wake-up call that South African companies are not immune from cyber threats. The incident impacted logistics on a national scale.

Read more...
Transport and logistics challenges in turbulent times
Editor's Choice Access Control & Identity Management Integrated Solutions Transport (Industry) Logistics (Industry)
Moving people and property safely and securely during these challenging times is a complex responsibility and technology is helping transport and logistics companies ensure operational continuity, facilitate uninterrupted movement and meet compliance requirements.

Read more...
Confidence with cloud-based warehouse management
Logistics (Industry) Integrated Solutions IT infrastructure
When companies rely on a dated warehouse management system (WMS) to run distribution centres, it’s not uncommon for the IT staff familiar with the system to move on.

Read more...
Optimising the supply chain
Transport (Industry) Integrated Solutions Logistics (Industry)
VSC Solutions has joined forces with Frontline Market Research to augment its strategic supply chain optimisation services with route-to-market and territory expansion capabilities.

Read more...