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BusinessDay: Local firm OQLIS lets you ‘see’ data with AI

By Johan Steyn, 6 February 2023

With the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, it is now possible to take this data analysis to the next level by making predictions and identifying patterns that can be used to automate decision-making and improve future performance. Business leaders can make data-driven decisions in real time, leading to more efficient operations, improved performance and increased revenue.

I had a meeting with a client recently who acknowledged that her business had made great improvements in its data gathering initiatives; however, her team was not able to easily see what they need from their current dashboards. “I wish we could easily see what the data is showing us.”

In architecture, the term “oculus” is most commonly used to refer to a circular opening in the centre of a dome or a vault. This opening is often called an “eye” because it allows light to enter the building and also serves as a focal point for the structure. Imagine if business leaders would employ an oculus to make meaningful, real-time sense of their data?

One of the many world-class AI companies born in SA that has made “seeing” data their business is Pretoria-based OQLIS. I had the privilege of speaking with co-founders Shawn Winterburn and Andrew Bosma about their exciting business.

They have recently expanded to New Zealand and I joined Winterburn on a virtual call from Auckland. “We started our business because we realised there is a gap in the market for data visualisation. That gave birth to our company name.”

I asked Winterburn about the significance of analytics and business intelligence to a company’s performance. “AI and machine learning are cutting-edge technologies that enable businesses to get a comprehensive understanding of their operations to increase efficiency, reduce expenses, and provide superior customer service.”

So why aren’t all businesses adopting this strategy? Or, more specifically, why are they not succeeding?

Winterburn said that their experience in the SA market was that most business leaders believed they could venture on the AI journey without external assistance. Bosma stressed that the challenge around the “go it alone” approach around power technologies such as AI, was that most businesses did not have the skills internally and their technical people did not understand the particular business case. “We rarely see longevity and the anticipated returns when businesses tackle new technology without assistance.”

Winterburn added that “our platform is an easy-to-integrate data intelligence interface built into a single platform, allowing businesses to ingest, store, visualise, analyse and predict trends, all in real-time. We integrate business intelligence, data automation and machine learning. It is available everywhere, on any device.”

I encourage business leaders to look into the many local firms doing brilliant work with AI. OQLIS can help you “see” the data around smart sensors (Internet of Things), process automation, energy management and time and attendance.

• Steyn is on the faculty at Woxsen University, a research fellow at Stellenbosch University and the founder of


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