Artificial intelligence (AI) is making its mark. From virtual assistants to data analytics, biometric security features, fraud detection and medical diagnosis, its applications are vast and varied. And, as Tim Mercer explored in his recent thoughts on the ‘future CEO’, it won’t be long before it has earned a seat at the boardroom table too.

But what does the next phase of growth and innovation look like, until then? And with 2023 having ushered in a number of changes on a regulatory front, how might we expect the next 12 months to take shape? 

Rapid and somewhat unprecedented, AI progress has given rise to a number of concerns throughout the tech space. Can we really trust these burgeoning systems? How much does AI truly understand? And if you’re not concerned about sentience and security, you might be wondering whether the tech will have an adverse impact on your job long-term.

Those concerns may have even been fuelled by the emergence of Google Gemini more recently — reported to be the first AI model to outperform human experts on massive multitask language understanding (MMLU) and has outperformed ChatGPT’s free tool in widespread testing too.

Ongoing changes to AI regulation 

The reality is, the tool itself isn’t inherently bad. It’s about what we, as humans and handlers, choose to do with it that counts. Heard of Ross O’Lochlainn’s ‘IKE-AI effect’ theory? Similar to the ‘IKEA effect’, he predicted organisations would overestimate the value of ‘soul-less, average garbage’ content, just because they made it with AI. It’s a very different sector of course, but a trend that parallels the very fears we’re seeing in other spaces.

Nevertheless, prevailing concerns have caused such a ripple that countries across the globe have moved to regulate them more comprehensively. The European Union reached political agreement on the AI Act in December. Intended to ensure the safety of AI systems on the EU market and provide legal certainty for investments and innovation in AI, the Act will enforce harmonised rules for the development, market placement and use of AI systems in the EU, following a proportionate risk-based approach. 

Overseas, Canada implemented a voluntary code of conduct in October to govern how AI is developed within its borders. Companies that sign on to the code are agreeing to multiple principles to boost data transparency, address potential bias for accuracy, and more. And in China, regulations have long revealed a considerable interest in generative AI and protections against synthetically generated images, video, audio, and text. 

Is ongoing scepticism limiting AI’s potential?

We’re taking back control. But at what cost? There’s room to suggest this ‘hysteria hype’ could just be stifling competitive-edge and innovation.

Andrew Ng — Google Brain cofounder and Stanford professor, widely regarded as one of the pioneers of machine learning — recently weighed in on these concerns by way of experiment, in which he tried to coax ChatGPT into coming up with ways to exterminate humanity. In his newsletter, he shared how multiple prompts failed to trigger the ‘doomsday scenario’ so many are scared of. It’s a humorous example, but Ng isn’t the first AI luminary to doubt misconceptions either.

No matter your stance, or the regulatory backdrop, AI is here to stay. And these energy-intensive applications demand advanced hardware to power their workloads. Building data centres with greater power density therefore plays a key role in enabling transformation. But with increased capacity comes greater heat output. Of course, the liquid cooling solutions required to combat this represent a number of technical and environmental hurdles in itself. So, how can organisations keep pace? 

AI dependance is shifting data centre strategy

For firms utilising multiple AI tools, colocation services can be a holy grail this year. By renting rack space in specialised data centres, businesses leverage advanced cooling systems and expertise to manage high-power density workloads, as well as benefits such as physical security, redundancy, and 24/7 monitoring.

This, coupled with a hybrid cloud approach, facilitates seamless integration of multiple AI tools and technologies. Plus, it provides instantaneous compute resources closer to their end users while efficiently managing the escalating data volumes driven largely by AI dependence.

Even industries forced to hold their cards close to their chest — finance and healthcare, for example — are growing hungrier to embrace such approaches. If we’ve learnt anything in recent years though, it’s to avoid knee-jerk implementations at all costs. That’s unless spiralling budgets and mismatched workloads are what you’re aiming for this year (we doubt it). Learn more about what a successful cloud migration strategy looks like, to underpin any AI-related endeavours.

It’s uncertain, but it’s exciting — as long as we harness it the right way.

Did the cloud and colocation talk catch your interest? Talk to our experts to see how you can unlock the true potential of your infrastructure in 2024.

For those who don’t know, ChatGPT is a state-of-the-art natural language processing tool, driven by AI technology, that has been making waves across a whole host of sectors recently. Now being leveraged as the brainpower behind Microsoft 365’s latest update, Copilot, the platform is set to have a greater number of applications, and more intuitive functionality, than ever.

So, what does this mean for the UK’s most ambitious organisations? Here, Vapour CEO Tim Mercer offers up some insight…

Give yourself five minutes on ChatGPT and you’ll instantly see how powerful the tool is. Integrate it into the world’s leading productivity cloud, and that impact will grow tenfold.

The architecture has been trained on an endless corpus of text data, making it an ideal solution for natural language processing and word-based tasks. Augmenting organisations’ existing Microsoft systems or able to be implemented as an entirely new solution, it’s a truly game-changing development for firms looking to stay ahead of the curve in terms of productivity and innovation.

Of course, being in its infancy, there are a handful of iterations to come before the service works seamlessly. But, more than simply embedding ChatGPT into Microsoft 365, here are three ways the enterprise-ready Copilot AI system is set to supercharge productivity…

Augmenting the customer experience

With features such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and automated support, leveraging the power of ChatGPT to enhance communication capabilities will take the customer experience to a whole new level — improving engagement by providing timely and accurate responses to enquiries.

Crucially, this won’t replace humans. Instead, it will free up teams for more complex, revenue-generating tasks — leaving manual, laborious work in the hands of capable technology, and maximising business efficiency across the board.

Straightforward integration

For businesses already using Microsoft 365, the integration of ChatGPT will be a straightforward process. Microsoft has announced that the technology will be merged into the platform's existing tools — including Teams, Word, and Outlook — meaning features will be available for use almost immediately.

For companies looking to implement the pairing as an entirely new solution, the process is equally simple. Microsoft's suite of tools is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, making it easy to get started with the platform. Plus, as a cloud-based solution, it’s ideal for geographically dispersed teams too — with applications able to be accessed from any location, at any time.

Unlocking seamless collaboration

This update is significant from an internal productivity perspective too. It means that you can finally say goodbye to clunky interfaces and hello to seamless collaboration. Imagine being able to ask Microsoft 365 a question in the same way you would ask a colleague, and getting an instant response that is accurate and helpful. 

And that's not all. ChatGPT is also capable of generating text — not just interpreting it — which means that Microsoft 365 can now help you write emails, reports, and even presentations, as well as summarise key points of an email thread or Teams meeting. No more staring at a blank page or struggling to remember details. Just tell Microsoft 365 what you want to achieve, and the AI will do the heavy lifting.

At Vapour, we believe that technology should be harnessed to empower businesses and individuals to achieve their full potential. If you are interested in learning more about how Vapour can help you provide a competitive edge with Microsoft 365, get in touch to discuss your custom solution, today.

It’s no secret that the global tech sector is advancing at an astonishingly rapid pace – not least in relation to the now integral role of digital transformation in spearheading growth and success. But no matter the size or scope or your organisation – or how sophisticated your innovation strategy is – the only way to drive significant change is to leverage the power of people.

So, to champion some of the industry’s finest talent, and gain some insight into the minds of individuals from across the tech space, we’re inviting friends and partners of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A.

Up next, it’s Ed Critchley – sales and marketing director at Cheshire-based telecommunications provider, Albeego. Take it away, Ed…

Tell us about your role at Albeego and the part you play in the tech sector.

Albeego offers an innovative way to provide broadband connectivity, whether static or on the move, even in the most hostile environments that are lacking in reliable or stable communications infrastructure. Our bonded technology can, for example, take the strongest cellular signals and combine them to give more secure and high throughput connectivity.

We are carrier agnostic, but even if that in itself is an issue, we can deliver connectivity over TV whitespace – so places such as desserts suddenly become ‘online’.

What innovation was the turning point for your organisation, to get it to where you are

Comms is vital in the military environment – not least to help fulfil security needs – and the inventor of Albeego’s bonded technology had long known that there was a need for more stable and reliable internet connectivity upon his return to the UK from the Middle East in 2018.

Believe it or not, Albeego’s first router was made in a margarine tub, and the turning point was when high definition video could be seamlessly streamed on a train from Wigan to London – proving that the tech was successful! The router worked by connecting to multiple cellular towers and intuitively anticipating which ones should drop and join, while leaving other radios anchored.

And where’s next for your business?

We’re starting to tap into the realm of smart farming and agriculture, and are working with sector leaders to develop technology that we believe will revolutionise this sector going forward.

Food security is big on the agenda right now, and farming has to step up and improve its output to keep pace and become self-sufficient. It’s early days for IoT smart farming, but

Albeego plays a critical role in providing reliable connectivity and communications – whether that’s for tractors out in the field or automated machinery and robotics.

The biggest misconception faced by the tech sector is…

That innovation comes at a cost. Innovation is now going to be more affordable than any past investment from a hardware and tech perspective, and the ROI is growing rapidly. While cost might be presumed to be an initial barrier to implementing state-of-the-art products and solutions, what it replaces or improves makes the investment worth it in the long run – not only saving time and money, but also providing new benefits and features.

What do you think will be the biggest tech trend over the next 12 months?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) using IoT connectivity is really gathering pace at the minute. I’m sure there’ll be even more investment to come in those areas over the next year.

What top tip would you give to an individual trying to excel in their tech career?

I suppose this is a life rule too, but if it seemed like a good idea at the start, it probably is. Don’t let hurdles and doubts creep in and cloud your judgement, and don’t let self-sabotage talk you out of innovation.

Similarly, if you were never sure in the first place, that’s probably a sign to leave something and move on – knowing when to drop something is really critical to progress.

The next purchase on your personal tech wishlist is…?

I change my tech all the time for the latest iterations of existing products, such as my PC or phone, but I’m due an upgrade for my drone.

I love photography and video, and can often be found filming footage of interesting historical sites on my travels abroad, so it would be great to get the latest version for better camera capabilities.

And what is the earliest memory you have of tech in your life?

When I was a child, we went to Florida on a family holiday – it must have been around 1980 at Disney World, I remember taking a family picture and having it developed on a dot matrix printer – looking back, it doesn’t look much like us at all, but it was so cutting edge at the time. We were all totally wowed by it and showed our friends and family when we arrived home.

What is one longstanding piece of tech that you are shocked is still used today?

There are two that spring to mind:
1. AOL dial-up internet access – before broadband, people would use a standard phone line and an analogue modem to access the internet at one pence per minute, and over two million people still use it today! Perhaps it’s residents in rural places or those resistant to change who can’t move away from tradition, but this statistic is so bizarre to me. They clearly need an Albeego solution!

2. Vinyl – I used to DJ using vinyl when I was young and I loved it, but I’m amazed it’s made its way back into popularity. I thought its time had been and god for good!

If you are without the internet for an hour, what would be the first activity you resort to, to pass the time?

I’ve taken golf up recently again with my son, but would definitely need more than an hour for that, so I supposed I would read a book.

I’m a bit of a book collector, so have lots on the shelf that I could pick up. I’m quite sad that I actually have two copies of some books – one for reading and one to keep in perfect condition. It’s a mix of subject matter really, but mainly I love historical books with a slight twist – I’m currently reading one about Ancient Egypt, which is a bit of a hybrid between fiction and non-fiction.

I’m also currently co-authoring a book with a friend in Denmark about the Knights Templar, so perhaps I could pass some time putting pen to paper with ideas, too.

We’re halfway through the year – can you even believe it?! In this second instalment of our 2021 technology news roundup, we share some of the innovations and key digital transformation developments that have caught our eye over the last few months.

Here are some of our ‘must shares’…

Covid 19 accelerates AI use

We know that our dependence on technology and the number of people with advancing digital skillsets have accelerated globally as a result of the pandemic. And when it comes to artificial intelligence adoption, it’s interesting to see that the UK now features in the top five countries in the world, alongside Italy, Germany, France, and the US. TechRepublic reports how businesses are embracing it.

Workplace wearables

According to Raconteur, AI looks set to spark the latest office revolution too, with the workplace set to experience a number of further changes over the next 12 months. The use of wearables is one particular trend to keep an eye on!

Does ‘the new normal’ bring heightened cybersecurity risks?

In a 1Q21 global poll of 165 executives on behalf of Gartner, it’s interesting to note that the top three cybersecurity concerns all related to hybrid working. As we know, teams across the country rushed to implement remote solutions back in March 2020, and it seems that as the world now starts to return to some form of normality, these hasty implementations may not be up to scratch.

SD-WAN hits the headlines

Remote working is here to stay, which means organisations need to implement secure, future-proofed systems that keep endpoints and networks safe - and that’s where we shine! Vapour has partnered with Gartner Magic Quadrant-recognised Fortinet, to deliver a highly robust SD-WAN solution, which saw us hit the tech headlines too!

Check out our feature in Comms Business.

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