How will delivery and use of ERP change in 2018?
As digital transformation becomes the new normal for businesses across many industries in line with local analyst reports from Gartner and IDC, 2018 is likely to be a year of consolidation as businesses look for ways to continue improving speed, efficiency, and cost effectiveness across their operations, according to Epicor.
Greg O’Loan, Regional Vice President, Australia and New Zealand, Epicor, said: “The most important thing business leaders are looking for is not just an accurate and overarching view of the organisation but the ability for everyone in the organisation to see the right information at the right time and in the right place. That goes beyond traditional dashboards and business intelligence tools to include innovations like devices that provide alerts and pre-emptive information to help individual operators make faster decisions.”
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools will play a key role in this quest for more and better insight. Organisations will prefer ERP tools that are intuitive and easy to use.
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O’Loan continued: “There has already been discussion around the consumerisation of enterprise IT, which is mainly due to the high numbers of millennials in the workforce who expect their business systems to work as simply and seamlessly as the apps they use in their daily lives. As these millennials start moving into management and senior decision-making roles, this demand for app-like business systems will only increase. This will shape the ERP space over the next few years.”
The increased focus on privacy will also affect businesses, especially as they continue to move towards digital processes. Complying with Government regulations such as the upcoming mandatory data breach notification will put pressure on businesses to bring their security up to date and to make sure only authorised personnel have access to personal information.
This will become more complex as organisations choose cloud as their preferred delivery model for business applications. Consequently, the market will see new ways of ERP systems being delivered with far greater efficiency.
O’Loan added: “Many ERP users are locked into legacy solutions because of the vast amounts of customisation that was done to make the system match the organisation’s workflows. It’s difficult for these users to move off those older systems and onto more modern platforms to take advantage of new technology and automation. However, there are significant advantages to making the leap to new systems because they can help businesses realise cost-savings and massive efficiency gains. Furthermore, newer, purpose-built ERP systems overcome the need for excessive customisation, so users aren’t locked into solutions.”
Automation is a key efficiency driver in newer ERP systems. Leveraging the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses can eliminate manual processes and achieve more effective operations. For example, equipment sensors can notify a company when that equipment is running outside normal parameters. The company can then send a service technician to repair or recalibrate the equipment before the user is even aware there was an issue. This early intervention can prevent equipment from breaking down altogether and extend its useful life.
O’Loan said: “Companies can save thousands of dollars per interaction by automating this process. When the ERP system receives the alert from the IoT sensor, it can automatically generate the service request and purchase order, create a ticket for the service operator that lets them know what equipment they’ll need to complete the task, close the work order when the job is done, generate an invoice, then automate accounts receivable to recoup the service fee. This kind of platforming will continue to gain momentum in 2018 and beyond.
“2018 will therefore be a year of consolidation and maturation as businesses begin to understand what digital transformation means for them and how they plan to achieve it. As businesses continue to chase growth, their systems will be the key enablers of that growth. For example, a manufacturer looking to start selling directly will need to set up new systems to facilitate sales. Systems that scale and can get people up and running fast will be in hot demand.
“We advise businesses to modernise their ERP systems now and choose providers that specialise in their industry to avoid the extra costs and complexity in having to heavily customise the solution.”
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.